Franklin faces former Pride champ Henderson
Interview by David L. Hudson
Photo by Chris Cozzone
Several years ago many wondered what would happen if then-UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin locked horns with PRIDE champion “Dangerous” Dan Henderson. It appeared to present a classic matchup between a superior striker in Franklin, against an outstanding wrestler with Olympic pedigree, in Henderson. Alas, the “dream” match never materialized given the intense competition between the UFC and the Japan-based PRIDE.
“I never gave it much thought back when we were both champions because I figured it would not happen for a long time,” Franklin says.
However, after the UFC purchased PRIDE, many of the formerly only imagined contests have become reality. Chuck “the Iceman” Liddell finally faced off against Wanderlei Silva. Former PRIDE stalwarts Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mirko Cro Cop entered the Octagon. Now, Franklin finally receives the opportunity to test his skills against Henderson at UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland.
Franklin – a former math teacher from Ohio – has already compiled a near-Hall-of-Fame career by any computational standards. He has lost only three times in his entire professional career – once to the unbeaten Lyoto Machida and twice to pound-for-pound great Anderson “Spider” Silva. However, he faces a tough task in Dan Henderson who should have a significant advantage if this fight hits the ground.
The two elite mixed martial artists will square off in the UFC light heavyweight division at 205 lbs. Franklin does not have a problem with the light heavyweight division, as he began his career at light heavyweight before dropping down to the middleweight division.
After two brutal losses to Anderson “Spider” Silva (who also stopped Henderson), Franklin again moved up to the 205lb division. In his last bout at UFC 88, he looked solid in defeating the strong Matt Hamill. Likewise, Henderson looked very solid in defeating the very dangerous submission specialist Rousimar Pulhares on the same UFC 88 card.
“I’m not sure where my future is,” Franklin candidly admits. “I started at 205 and then went to middleweight, but the UFC encouraged me to move up after the second loss to Silva.” Franklin admits that he made be a bit of tweener between the middleweight and light heavyweight division. Mixed martial artists don’t have nearly the same level of weight division choices as boxers.
“ It was difficult for me to make 185 but I’m a small 205,” Franklin acknowledges.
However, he believes that he can fight in either division and takes his fights on a fight-by-fight basis. It is presumed that the winner of this bout will then serve as the next coach on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Michael “the Count” Bisping. If Franklin wins, it would be his second stint as a coach on the popular television show, as he was on the show with Matt Hughes in season two. “I was really excited to do The Ultimate Fighter before, but I’m not as excited about it now,” he says. “I don’t care to spend six weeks in Las Vegas with the time away from my family. The show doesn’t pay real well. However, if the UFC asks me to do it, I’m willing to do it because they always been so good to me.”
Franklin does not view the bout as an eliminator though a loss surely will diminish his chances of receiving another chance at a belt.
“I never really feel the fight as an eliminator,” he says. “Dan is a tough opponent with great credentials. I think it will make for a great fight.”
At the end of the day that is what matters to the mixed martial community – great fights. Franklin v. Henderson has the potential to provide just that. Check out UFC 93 to see how these two former champions add to their legacies.
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David L. Hudson Jr. is a feature writer for Fightnews.com and the author of Combat Sports: An Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts. Click here