On January 17th from Dublin, Ireland both Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson will face one of the toughest tests in their decorated mixed martial arts careers when they face off with one another in the main event of UFC 93.
The bout pits two of the sports premier athletes up against one another in a match that gives both men a golden opportunity to breathe new life into their MMA careers.
Since falling short in his attempt to regain the middleweight championship that he lost at the hands of Anderson Silva, Franklin has been on a mission to reestablish himself among the top fighters in the UFC. The first two steps on his mission saw him stop Travis Lutter at 185 pounds before moving up to 205 pounds to finish Matt Hamill impressively.
Henderson is in an extremely similar position. After becoming the first fighter to hold titles in two separate weight classes in a major organization the Team Quest fighter dropped consecutive bouts to Quinton Jackson and Anderson Silva for both the 205 and 185 pound titles before rebounding with an impressive victory over dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Rousimar Palhares at UFC 88.
The match up between the two former champions will take place in UFC’s light heavyweight division. In an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com, Franklin said that he feels better than ever since moving back up to 205 pounds.
“I think my timing is better at 205 than it was at 185,” said Franklin. “Not that I was ever a sluggish fighter at 185 pounds but I think that not cutting weight keeps me that much more fresh at 205 pounds.”
Although Franklin will never be one of the biggest guys at 205 pounds, he feels as if the slight lack of natural size will give him a very distinct advantage against the rest of the competition in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
“I’m dealing with bigger fighters at 205, which for the most part are going to be a little bit slower,” said the former middleweight champion. “I feel like in the light heavyweight division I may be a little bit faster than most of the competition. Not quite as big, not quite as strong but perhaps just a bit faster. I think that because of that I may have an advantage at 205.”
Going into his fight with Henderson, Franklin knows that he will be facing one of the most dangerous men he has faced up until this point in his fighting career. The type of preparation that goes into a bout with this kind of importance comes with plenty of homework to be done and numerous game plans to be developed.
“At this point we have looked at and studied his tapes,” said Franklin. “We look at the way he throws his punches and sets things up then of course we’re looking at how he works in the clinch and all of that kind of stuff.”
“Dan’s not really big on throwing jabs. Most of the punches that he throws are just power shots. Big crosses and big hooks, he throws a lot of things that are designed to knock you out.”
“We’re focusing a lot on those things and then of course we’re always spending some time on our takedown defense. Really, in this fight in particular we’re not worried so much about defending the takedown but more just making the takedown difficult.”
Both men have their fair share of highlight reel knockouts throughout the duration of their fighting careers but that is where the similarities end when comparing the pairs striking styles. Franklin has the more technical boxing and likes to punish his opponents with powerful leg and liver kicks while Henderson has a huge right hand and the ability to end any fight in the blink of an eye.
The fact that Henderson has faced a who’s who of dangerous strikers in MMA and has yet to be knocked out has to be weighed into any equation involving a stand up game plan for Franklin.
“I think my foot work on my feet is better than his and I feel like my hands are sharper than his but Dan has a really tough chin, he’s resilient and he hits very hard,” said Franklin. “Sometimes with a fighter like that you have to be careful because it wouldn’t pay off to give three to trade for his one.”
Franklin is right where he needs to be physically going into his fight with Henderson. Well rested since his stoppage victory over Hamill, the Jorge Jurgel and Matt Hume trained fighter has had another successful training camp that has him peaking and ready for battle.
“I’m feeling really good, my conditioning is right where it needs to be and I’m mentally in a good place,” said Franklin. “I’m not beat up or worn down at all.”
Just prior to his fight with Hamill, Franklin ventured away from his usual stomping grounds and training camp in Cincinnati to put himself through a full training camp with Matt Hume in Seattle and the results spoke for themself.
“Going up to Seattle and training with Matt Hume and bringing my boxing coach Rob Radford with me has really helped me gauge my training as far as whether I’m over training or under training,” said Franklin.
As he explained, sometimes going too hard at too many places would end up leaving him drained and not at a hundred percent.
“I think that here in Cincinnati I’ve kind of had a problem with over training because I’m constantly going to a bunch of different facilities,” said Franklin. “I’m still working with my Muay-Thai coach Mike Rielly and then I do a lot of my training at JG MMA Academy and then I have a separate coach at Power Station.”
“I’m training at all of these different facilities in Cincinnati and it gets really difficult because every time I go for a workout someone is constantly wanting to run me into the ground.”
Chalking it up as a learning experience, the former coach of The Ultimate Fighter knows that there are benefits that he gets from training in both Cincinatti and Seattle and he expects to bring all of those benefits into the octagon with him at UFC 93.
“I think that because of the way I approached my training leading into this fight with Henderson that I’m in a really good place,” explained Franklin. “I split this camp about in half. Basically I did the first two weeks here in Cincinnati and then I went up to Seattle for about for weeks and then I came back home to Cincinnati. I had to come home for the holidays and see my family and all of that stuff.”
“I’m going to finish up my training here in Cincinnati and then Matt, Rob and I will fly out to Dublin together.”
Training is Seattle with Hume has not only benefited him by allowing him to train at the proper speed but Franklin also found one of his most useful training partners in his coach.
“Really for this fight in particular, because Matt has such a history with Dan and because Matt himself is a really good wrestler himself, he has been a really good training partner for me in Seattle,” said Franklin.
“I have a good group of individuals that I’ve been training with. Some really good wrestlers. Guys that can mimic Dan Henderson and some guys that can kind of just mimic him naturally.”
The bout with Henderson will mark the second time Franklin has headlined a card in Ireland with his first appearance coming against Yushin Okami at UFC 72. Fighting in unfamiliar territory is nothing new for Franklin. Having fought in Japan, Ireland and Canada, he is far from an unfamiliar face outside of the United States.
“I had a good fan reception the last time I was in Ireland,” said Franklin. “I guess it always amazes me, the way fans react to me in different countries. I’ve fought in Montreal and Ireland and I’ve always had a good fan reception. I get really good responses on my website from the UK and various other places so it’s really nice to know that I have a good international backing.”
His opponent is no stranger to international fame either. Henderson established himself as one of the sports top athletes and created quite a fan base for himself while competing overseas in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships. This bout will pit two of the game’s more beloved fighters against each other in a fight that for many, will be hard to route against either guy..
“Dan’s a well known fighter because of all of his experience in Pride,” said Franklin. “People really like Dan. I’m sure that a lot of people that know about this fight are kind of torn like ‘I don’t know who to root for. Both of these guys are good guys and I like both of them and they’re both great fighters’. At the same time I think people are really excited to see this fight.”
Having once held the championship gold around his waist , Franklin would like nothing more than to capture that feeling once again but whether he ends up a champion or not, he will not allow it to define who he is as a fighter.
“I remember before I ever had the title that it was the most important thing to me,” explained Franklin. “I wanted the title and I wanted to be the champion. Now that I have been a champion I want to be a champion again. As far as my fighting career goes, nothing would please me more than becoming a champion again.”
“On the flip side of that, if I was never a champion again I don’t think that I would be one of those guys that go into a severe depression or become an alcoholic for the rest of my life.”
Rich Franklin 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, Maxus Tools