Rich “Ace” Franklin (24-3) has enjoyed one of the most prosperous MMA careers in the sports young history. He is a former UFC middleweight champion and has only tasted defeated three times in his career, at the hands of the undefeated Lyoto Machida and the best pound-for-pound fighter Anderson Silva (twice).
Silva has dominated the middleweight division in the UFC since defeating Franklin at UFC 64 for the middleweight title, defeating anyone that has challenged him, including Franklin again at UFC 77. So rather than attempt to fight Silva for a third time, Franklin decided to move to light heavyweight to start another run at a title. It looked like Silva would no longer impede Franklin’s path to glory.
It’s rather cliché to say, “life comes full circle” or “that many roads have the same destination” but it applies to Franklin. His first fighter against a light heavyweight title contender is against Dan Henderson, but there’s a catch. The winner will coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite Michael Bisping. At the conclusion of the show they will face off at middleweight with the winner getting a title shot against…Silva.
Franklin now finds himself between a rock and Anderson Silva. He’s stated that he would rather not coach a second season of TUF, and he would also prefer not to face Silva for a third time, as he was never really in the fights the first two go-rounds. Yet if that is what’s laid before him then he’ll do anything and everything to win. And losing to Henderson isn’t an option as it would cause him to get lost in the shuffle at 205.
Going into the fight with Henderson one would have to wonder what Franklin’s mindset is. He left his comfort zone at middleweight to avoid one person, so is he prepared to travel down the road that leads to Silva again. It’s said that “the third times a charm” but does that hold true when battling your archenemy?
It could come down to a nearly unstoppable force clashing with an immovable object for their final showdown. Silva has said he plans to retire in about years time from now. By the time this potential fight with Franklin would happen, it could mark the end of Silva’s career. How fitting would it be for Franklin to be the final test of Silva’s career, where things would come full circle for both men.
One thing is for sure, Franklin is and always has been a warrior in the cage. Any challenge thrown his way he has overcome, with very few exceptions. Now as another road to a title is paved before him can he final exercise the demon known as “The Spider” from his life and recapture the title he lost back in 2006?
Although Franklin has yet to take the first step on this journey, and for all we know the dream may all fall apart before it really begins, but to watch him battle his way back to the top is a compelling story fit for the silver screen of Hollywood. The dream could start with Franklin defeating Henderson at UFC 93, and if he does it will offer fans a storyline like none other in 2009, as Franklin once again looks to be called a champion in the UFC.