Franklin in precarious spot
Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photo by Chris Cozzone
The world of mixed martial arts is starting to become more and more like the world of popular culture every day. One minute, a fighter is basking in the glow of stardom, the next, the light are off, and fans and the media act as though the light was never on in the first place.
Rich Franklin finds himself in this precarious position.
At one point in time, “Ace” was the man in the UFC. Franklin made his Octagon debut at 42: Sudden Impact, beating the late Evan Tanner via TKO in the first round. The sky proved to be the limit for the man fighting out of Ohio, and victories over Edwin Dewees and Jorge Rivera followed soon after at UFC 44 and UFC 50 respectively. Franklin’s big moment on the national stage came at the expense of Ken Shamrock, who Franklin disposed of a mere 2:42 seconds into their three round bout at the inaugural Ultimate Fighter finale card.
Franklin’s second defeat of Tanner at UFC 53 earned him the UFC middleweight championship. A highlight reel knockout in his first title defense against Nate Quarry—that still plays before UFC live events—made Franklin one to watch.
This is where the story takes a tragic turn.
UFC 64 pitted Franklin against a then relatively unknown Brazilian by the name of Anderson “The Spider” Silva. It took Silva just 2:59 to derail the Franklin bandwagon. The resilient former champion battled back with victories over Jason MacDonald and Yushin Okami only to be knocked back off the top of the mountain by Silva in another lopsided beating at UFC 77.
Today, Franklin’s record stands at a respectable 24-4-1 with losses coming only from Dan Henderson, and Team Black House members Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva. With a 190 pound catch weight bout against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99 (Silva is coming down to middleweight, Franklin will remain at light heavyweight after this match), do not look for the pressure to get to Franklin.
“Honestly, this is just another fight,” Franklin tells Fight News. “I try not to put a lot of weight on fights as far as must win situations. I prep for this fight like I prep for any other fight. As far as Wand goes as an opponent, this is an opportunity to fight another great fighter.”
When the details of Franklin’s training went public, the former middleweight champion found himself in the center of controversy between Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva. The two Silva’s were once teammates at Chute Box and a war of words began shortly after Wanderlei announced his descent to the middleweight division. Anderson seemingly threw gas on the fire by offering to help Franklin train for the bout. Franklin has stayed above the fray, maintaining that training with Anderson was simply a good opportunity. Given Wanderlei’s Muay-Thai clinch, and the trouble Franklin had defending against the “Spider’s” clinch, it would be hard to argue with the assessment.
“I thought that it was a good idea [to go out and train],” Franklin says. “That’s about the extent of the relationship other than the fact that we’re just friends and it seemed like a good resource for this fight in particular. I know there’s some Internet chatter between Wanderlei and Anderson going on. My decision to train had happened before any of that stuff happened. I try to keep myself out of any of the personal battles. I was just looking for a good resource to use to help me prep for this fight.”
Franklin offers no grandiose predictions on the outcome of the fight. One thing to count on is a game “Ace” stepping into the Octagon come Saturday.
“I’m done training and I’m ready to fight. I want to get this one over with.”