Franklin Senses Opportunity Against Liddell
Story by Brady Crytzer
Rich Franklin was been looking for a home. After establishing himself as the sport’s first stable middleweight champion in over ten years and losing his title in 2006, the Cincinnati native has been taking on all comers.
Following wins over Jason MacDonald and Travis Lutter at the middleweight limit, Franklin was victorious in one of 2009’s best firefights when he defeated fellow weight class-nomad Wanderlai Silva in a 195 pound catchweight bout. Now, after nearly nine months out of action, Rich Franklin is ready to headline UFC 115 in a light heavyweight showdown against Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell.
“I knew that Chuck really wanted to fight Tito. I was looking for some time off after the Wanderlai fight last year. The UFC called me for the September show and I took some time off after that. When I received this call was about the time that I wanted to jump back in anyway. I had some time to physically and mentally reset, so the timing was perfect.”
Franklin’s feature attraction against “The Iceman” was nontraditional at best. Liddell, who joined rival Tito Ortiz on season eleven of The Ultimate Fighter, had high hopes of battling the opposing coach at the end of the series. After a neck injury, Ortiz pulled out of the fight and suddenly the coveted spot was vacant. The UFC was in a pinch. A short notice bout against one of the most devastating punchers of all time…
Who ya gonna call?
“I was at my house and Dana called me,” Franklin recalled. “He informed me that Tito had pulled out of the fight due to an injury to his neck. They asked me if I would fly out to Vegas and finish filming the show and eventually fight Chuck at the end. I had two questions for them, the first was whether Tito would still be there on the show and the second was whether this move was cool with Chuck and his team.”
Franklin is anything but unpredictable. The quintessential “company man” grateful for the life and opportunity he was given, Franklin never hesitated to take a fight. Against Chuck Liddell in the main event of a pay-per-view, it was a no-brainer.
“I’m pretty much the kind of person that does what the UFC needs me to do,” Franklin explained. “With coaching the Ultimate Fighter and fighting Chuck, the UFC seems to be pushing me in the direction of 205. My plan is to stay there.”
Franklin’s quick decision was a good one; a great one, in fact. After the headliner was announced, UFC 115 sold out only thirty minutes after presale tickets went on sale. Franklin and Liddell, now in the twilight of their careers, are still relevant and always making improvements.
“Stylistically I’ve made some changes,” Franklin said. “I haven’t made a whole lot of changes to my camp. I spent time in Seattle before my camp started, but for my eight or nine week camp I’ve done everything in Cincinnati.”
After suffering knockout losses to Rashad Evans and “Shogun” Rua, Chuck Liddell has been criticized and asked to hang up his dangerous gloves for good. Franklin however always keeps things in perspective, and realizes that a great opportunity has been put in front of him.
With the light heavyweight title changing hands routinely, Franklin is ready for his chance.
“It’s always the goal,” Franklin said. “I have a nice opportunity here fighting Chuck, but eventually this is the kind of thing that you want to move past and fight for a title.”