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Old 09-16-2009, 05:24 AM
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Default Rich Franklin Article

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The word seared into the mind of any fighter, be they a current, former, or aspiring champion, is “title.”

The belt, whatever form it takes, is an all-consuming obsession, measured in steps towards or away from it. Lives are re-arranged in its pursuit. Focus must be unwavering for belts that mean something.

Former champions often tie themselves to the return trail most intensely. So intertwined with their ego is the belt, they lose sight of everything else.

Rich Franklin doesn’t appear to be one of those people.

When the former UFC middleweight champion spoke to reporters about his fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 103, he was Zen about his future with the organization (though he’d probably chalk the attitude up to faith).

The most important thing, he said, was putting on entertaining fights for the fans. Everything else – his weight, where he was on the title ladder, his long-term plans – was secondary.

“If I continue doing the things I need to do and winning fights and stuff like that, eventually I’ll make my way back to a title run,” he said. “If I can get back to a title run, that’d be a great Cinderella story for me before I retire. If not, between now and then, if I’m putting on great fights for the fans then I’m happy doing that.”

Franklin has gone 3-1 since losing an October 2007 bid to regain the title from the man who took it from him in violent fashion, Anderson Silva. Like many lives re-arranged by “The Spider,” Franklin wasn’t in a position to make many demands after the loss. He was a big middleweight and a small light heavyweight. He was, however, a bankable star, and that gave him options.

Franklin met another star displaced by the light heavyweight division, Wanderlei Silva, and won at 195 pounds, though he said the muscle he was packing on would make it difficult to keep his weight down. Nevertheless, the catch weight caught the attention of Belfort, who requested the limit for Saturday’s bout.

That was fine with "Ace," too.

“Fighting at 195, it wasn’t my idea for this fight,” said Franklin. “It was just something that Vitor requested. At this point in time I’m not in the title hunt at 205, perhaps I will be at some point in time as long as I keep winning fights. Until then, if the UFC has exciting fights for me at 195 pounds... then I’m willing to drop.”

The size of his competition at 205 pounds made the wait to move up easier.

“These are gonna be tough match-ups just for the simple fact that I’m not a big 205-pound fighter,” said Franklin. “A lot of these guys are taller than me, wider than me, longer than me, I’m gonna deal with weight issues, strength issues probably. So a lot of the match-ups at 205 are gonna be tough on me.”

Belfort has looked like a fighter reborn in his last two performances, smashing Terry Martin and Matt Lindland as a middleweight. The turmoil in his life has taken a back seat, and he’s training at a top camp in Xtreme Couture. Still, after several years of listless, uninspired performances, fans and media are not completely sold; they continue to ask which Vitor is going to show up.

Franklin believes he has a tough fight on his hands regardless of those questions.

“I think that Vitor still poses a threat the way he did several years ago with his speed and his explosiveness of his hands and all that kind of stuff,” said Franklin. “That’s obviously something I want to be looking out for, but more recently he’s become a much more well rounded MMA fighter. Obviously he’s going to pose much more of a challenging fight because if I find myself in a little bit of trouble on my feet, it won’t be as easy to just take him down and stuff like that.

“What it boils down to come the 19th is I have to execute my game plan. If I do what I know I’m capable of doing then I’ll do fine. But if I let Vitor unfold his game plan the way that he wants to and impose his will in the fight then that’s where I’m going to run into trouble.”

It’s the fourth time Franklin has headlined a card where no title is at stake. He's on the first of a new six-fight deal, the last in his career, he says. Clearly, though, fans and the UFC don’t mind his current state of ambition. Good fights are more important.

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Old 09-16-2009, 11:59 AM
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TexasRN TexasRN is offline
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Watching Rich fight makes me nervous.

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