The loss to Belfort was Franklin’s second consecutive fight at a catch weight match-up; his first was a unanimous decision win against Wanderlei Silva back at UFC 99 in June. But with the loss on Saturday, what do you do with him now?
Dana White expressed in the post fight press conference that he and the UFC will remain loyal to Franklin and figure out what’s next for the former champion. Franklin has undoubtedly been the UFC’s workhorse, not only by headlining cards for the pay per view ratings when no other star names were there, but by never taking seemingly easy fights. His last three fights alone have been all been against former champions, and although his record stands at 1-2 against them, I believe he actually won the fight against Dan Henderson.
However, at this stage in his career, does Franklin still have what it takes to be a champion? At middleweight there seems to be no interest in another run at current champion Anderson Silva, Franklin himself admits he doesn’t want to face the Spider again. So unless for some reason Silva decides to let his future opponents hit him on purpose, I don’t see any of the top contenders taking his belt away anytime soon.
At light heavyweight, a division Franklin is very familiar with, he will have even more trouble finding his way to the top of the ladder. With the most stacked division in MMA, the UFC boasts more talent in the light heavyweight division than other promotions have in their entire stable of fighters. Franklin could most certainly put on great fights with some of these guys, Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin come to mind, but I’m not sure he could make it to the top of the heap. He currently has a loss to current champion Lyoto Machida, and then there’s that Silva guy again, who seems to have set his targets on the light heavyweight belt as well.
I have always enjoyed watching Rich Franklin fight, he gives everything he has and leaves it all in the octagon. He has become a true poster boy for what Mixed Martial Arts has become and has not disappointed in that role. He is a class act in victory and has always been gracious in defeat. He is a fighter that has become a role model for the sport and a future hall of famer; I just hope it’s not the beginning of the end.
By no means does one loss become a precursor for the end, but I just hope the UFC has a plan for him. I hope he doesn’t become a stepping stone for future stars or the guy in between divisions, fighting for no reason.