Rich Franklin was caught in the middle.
The former UFC middleweight champ last Friday departed from a short training camp with current king Anderson Silva in preparation for a catch-weight showdown with Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99.
A war of words broke out between the Silvas in recent weeks over Wanderlei’s intention to move from light heavyweight to middleweight. The two were training partners in their formative years at Chute Boxe in Curitiba, Brazil.
But Franklin says he’d mapped out the trip to the Los Angeles gym long before the conflict arose.
“None of the situation between Anderson and Wanderlei played in to me going out and training with Anderson,” Franklin told MMAWeekly.com from Seattle, where he trains for another week before heading back to hometown Cincinnati.
The decision was good for gossip circles, but he says it was about good training from a respected fighter.
“I received a call from (Silva’s manager) Ed Soares many, many weeks ago about training with Anderson, and I spoke to Rob, my boxing coach, and Matt (Hume), my MMA coach, and ran the idea by them about training here,” he continued. “We all decided it wasn’t a bad idea, so we headed off.
“Ed told me that Anderson and Wanderlei used to be teammates, and they’re not anymore, and Anderson had a tremendous amount of respect for me, and would like to help me prep for the fight. Aside from that, the whole soap opera of them going back and forth, none of that stuff had even started. In my life, I really, really try to keep myself as drama free as possible. I’m not a guy that likes to encounter conflict; I’d rather avoid it when it’s possible.”
His history with the current champ – two devastating stoppage losses at UFC 64 and 77 – didn’t weigh as heavily as one might expect.
“The UFC’s made it clear that they don’t want me to fight him again, and with that in mind, it made it easy for me to decide that I wasn’t going to be putting myself in a situation that I would perhaps end up having to face him again one day,” said Franklin. “From that point of view, it was just a decision.”
And in the big picture of his UFC 99 training camp, the time in Los Angeles was a drop in the bucket. Other than adjusting to “Brazilian time,” he says he enjoyed the departure from his usual training regimen, which has been focused in Cincinnati and Seattle.
“Aside from the scheduling – we had some scheduling conflicts, guys showing up late for workouts – when we were in the gym training, the training was really good,” said Franklin. “We ran a lot of different drills, and got a little bit of time one-on-one with Anderson. It was definitely an interesting trip, something I’m not used to doing.
“It wasn’t like I was going to learn a bunch of techniques that I didn’t already know, so it didn’t really boil down to that. Any time you go to a different camp, everybody has their own way of training, and the way they structure classes, what they decide to work on, how they divide up their week. It was slightly different than the way we do things.”
He did not get a key to defeat Wanderlei, nor was he looking for it.
“It’s not like Anderson revealed any kind of secrets or anything we didn’t already know,” he said. “It was good work we did down there, but nothing that was a big eye-opener.”
The experience, however, may have changed his feelings about training with Wanderlei in Las Vegas. The former Pride champ invited him to the gym around the time of its opening in March.
“Training at his facility will be different now, because Anderson helped me out for this fight,” he said. “The fact that he even extended the invitation for me to come out there says a lot to me. With that in mind, if something were to ever come up between the two of them, I wouldn’t want to be in Wanderlei’s gym training with them, crossing that line with the possibility that they might fight each other. At this point, I feel like Anderson stuck his neck out for me. I just wouldn’t want to cross that line.”
Would he help out Anderson in a fight with Wanderlei?
“I haven’t really given that much thought,” he said. “To be quite honest, even if I did want to help Anderson get ready for Wanderlei, I’m not sure I’m the best training partner for that anyway. I’m southpaw; he’s not. I don’t move like Wanderlei does. So I’m not sure that would even be an issue to begin with.”