Rich Franklin recently left his mark in the UFC’s light heavyweight division when he stopped top prospect Matt Hamill with a perfectly placed liver kick at UFC 88. The former middleweight champion will have an opportunity to rocket himself up the ranks at 205 when he faces off with the extremely dangerous top ranked former Pride FC champion, Dan Henderson.
The upcoming battle between the two former champions has been a long time coming. For months before the bout was formally announced, fans and insiders alike openly speculated on what the outcome would be if the two top level athletes were ever to lock horns.
All questions will be answered on January 17th in Dublin, Ireland when Franklin takes on Henderson in the main event of UFC 93. The highly anticipated match up between two of the biggest stars in the sport promises to start the new year out with a bang.
There is more on the line than just the win in this fight. UFC president Dana White has already announced that the winner between Franklin and Henderson would be the second head coach for the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Michael Bisping was the first head coach to be announced in a season that will feature both lightweight and welterweight fighters in USA vs. UK match ups.
Although the announcement was made in mid December, Franklin told FiveOuncesOfPain.com in an exclusive interview that he has yet to be formally approached about the spot.
“The UFC at this point haven’t technically talked to me about the show,” said Franklin. “I don’t know any of the details like how many coaches I would be bringing. I know Bisping has named a couple of his coaches at this point in time.”
With many different details to be ironed out should he come out on top in his clash with Henderson, Franklin confesses that there is definitely one uncertainty that he is most concerned with should he wind up on the other side of Bisping as a coach.
“I guess the big question from me that remains to be seen is, since me and Bisping have both fought at 205 and 185 pounds, what are they going to do with this fight between the two of us,” said the former 185 pound champion. “I’m assuming that they’re trying to work him into a possible title spot or something so it wouldn’t make much sense for him to not fight at 185 pounds.”
“I’m guessing that they’re probably going to ask me to drop back down to 185 pounds but this is all just speculation at this point.”
Self admittedly, Franklin isn’t overly enthusiastic about the prospect of being named the next coach of The Ultimate Fighter. After already coaching alongside Matt Hughes in the second season of the show, the experience would not be a unique one for the Cincinatti, Ohio native. Combined with the fact that the stint would mean even more time away from his family makes the position that much less desirable.
“I’ll just say that I’m not as excited to do it this time as I was to do it the first time,” explained Franklin. “I’ve already been through the experience now.”
“The main reason why I’m not that excited about it is that I just spent four weeks in Seattle and then I got to come home for a couple weeks. Now I’ll be leaving for my fight in Ireland shortly and then from my fight I would basically go straight to Las Vegas for six weeks.”
Even though being a coach on the next season The Ultimate Fighter isn’t exactly on the top of Franklin’s list of things he wants to do, he is absolutely willing to step up to the plate and do the job if need be.
“It just gets to a point where it can get a bit difficult to be away from home for that long but this is the lifestyle that has been bestowed upon me so if that’s what I have to do then that’s what my job is,” explained the always dependable UFC veteran. “If that’s what the UFC wants and that’s what they need then I’m all for it. I’m always willing to do whatever they ask me to do.”
If Franklin ended up dropping back down to 185 pounds to face off with Bisping at the conclusion of the show there would be a possibility of a third match up with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Having come up short in his two prior encounters with Silva, Franklin feels confident that he would be able to turn the tables on the reigning champion in a third match. However, if that rematch never comes to fruition, it’s not something that he’s going to lose any sleep over.
“The competitive side of me always says ‘Yeah, I’m willing to do that’ but really I don’t have a problem putting my head down on my pillow at night and not avenging that loss,” said Franklin. “I had two chances and I came up empty handed. Given a third chance I feel like the outcome would be different but if it doesn’t work out that way, it doesn’t.”
“The UFC had spoke with me about moving up to 205 and my move to 205 was based on their suggestion that I do so. They weren’t interested in doing a third fight with Anderson Silva if I made my way back to the title. I guess they didn’t think that the fans would be interested and that it wouldn’t make good pay per view buys so really they kind of encouraged me to move up to the light heavyweight division. When the UFC asked me to move up to 205 pounds it was my intention to make it my home for at least a while.”
Despite the fact that retirement is nowhere in the immediate future for Franklin, he knows that it never hurts to plan for the future. Realistically no man can fight forever and in a business where your paycheck depends on your bodies ability to perform at the highest level it could never hurt to take out an insurance policy in the form of a career back up plan.
“I was talking to my business manager about things that I could or would want to do when I retire from fighting,” said Franklin. “I know that I can’t do this forever. I’m 34 years old and I realize that my end is coming at some point in time. I don’t know when, but one day it will be upon me and I don’t plan on doing this until I’m 43 like Randy.”
Sitting down with his business manager, Franklin entertained numerous possibilities for ways he could transfer what he has accomplished in the world of mixed martial arts into a career that he would enjoy after his fighting days are over.
“We talked about commentating and different things and my business manager asked me if I would possibly be interested in some acting,” explained Franklin. “I said ‘Yeah, sure. That would be cool. I wouldn’t mind a little role in a movie or something like that’.”
When he had first entertained the idea of venturing into the world of acting Franklin’s initial thoughts were that it would be exciting to have a small appearance somewhere to get his feet wet. Maybe even a minor speaking role was something he would consider.
“I thought in my head when we had spoke about this that I would be like a bouncer in a bar, a door guy or a bartender or something like that,” said the former high school math teacher. “Just some small role that had like three lines and that was about it. Just a little cameo type appearance.”
When Franklin’s manager came to him with a script for an upcoming movie it didn’t take the UFC superstar long to realize that the role he was to audition for in this script was just a little bit bigger than what he had been anticipating for in his first role.
“Then next thing you know, I had some down time after the second Silva loss last year and they came to me with this script and they wanted me to read this part,” said Franklin. “I’m like ‘OK, what’s my character’s name’ and I’m sitting there reading it and when I get about a third of the way through I called my business manager. I was like ‘Hey, did you realize that this is like the main role’ and he said ‘Yeah, exactly’. I was like ‘I don’t think I’m ready for something like that’ but they convinced me to give it a shot. So I was like ‘OK, whatever’ and really that’s how it all came about.”
Franklin made his acting debut in the John Stead film entitled Cyborg Soldier which was released in 2008 by Peace Arch Entertainment Group. The film is done in the tradition of hollywood blockbusters such as The Terminator and Universal Soldier and has been recieving positive reviews from both mixed martial arts fans and movie critics.
Franklin’s first experience in show business helped him to realize that it’s not nearly as easy as he had previously expected. Even though it may be something that he would like to do in the future, let’s just say that he has no plans of quitting his day job any time soon.
“I think that I didn’t too bad with it being my first movie and everything but I feel like I have a lot to learn in that industry,” confessed Franklin. “Acting is definitely something that I wouldn’t mind being involved in for the remainder of my career but I wouldn’t want to make that my ful time job because it’s really long hours and hard work. Until you actually do something like that it’s a real eye opener to see how much time and effort goes into it.”
Acting was a great experience for Franklin but if you ask him, it’s a different side of the movie business that he is best suited for.
“I think honestly that I’m more cut out to be a stunt man than I am an actor,” said Franklin. “They had a stunt man on the set there the whole time and of course there weren’t many scenes for him to do.”
“I remember I asked my stunt man ‘If I do my stunts, do you still get paid?’ and he said ‘Yeah but it makes a boring day’. I said ‘Sorry to keep you bored but I’m going to do as much as they will let me do’. He pretty much sat around the whole time watching me do my thing.”
“In one of the beginning scenes of the movie when they show my character climbing up the rock wall, that actually was not me. It wasn’t until I had a chance to watch the movie I realized that that scene was in the film. I was so irritated that I didn’t get to do that but apparently the day they had that guy climbing the wall they had me like running through the snowy tunnels and a bunch of other stuff. A lot of that stuff just flat out comes down to time. You just don’t have enough time on the shooting schedule for you to be at all of these different places at once.”
With a teaching career to fall back on, the option to coach and work in mixed martial arts in a number of ways and a budding acting career, it’s safe to say that Franklin will have plenty of choices for how he decides to spend his time when he decides to hang them up for good. For now, that day will have to wait as there is no place that Franklin would rather be than in the center of the octagon putting it all on the line.
“The crazy thing is that when I talk to people a lot of them ask me what I’m want to do when I’m done fighting,” said Franklin. “At this point in time I still want to fight so the thought of sitting behind a camera all day isn’t really appealing to me. Then again, maybe one day it will be. So I always tell people that I don’t really know what I want to do when I’m done fighting but I know that I have options.”
A class act inside and outside of the ring, Franklin is always looking for different ways to share his success with some of the less fortunate individuals that may not be able to find the help that they need in other places.
“The Keep It In The Ring Foundation is a non-profit organization that we have,” explained Franklin. “We do charity events and things like that. Sometimes the UFC Fight Club people will make donations with some of the money that they raise. Sometimes we use the money for domestic violence organizations and a lot of the money goes to after school programs for the kids like karate programs and different things. Stuff to just keep them out of trouble.”
Rich would like to thank the following people for supporting him in his career. J.T. Stewart, American Fighter, Fight Factory, Panther Arms, Spencers, Bodybuilding.com, MMAdhouse, support the heroes.org, real american fighters.org, zappos, and Maxus Tools.