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Former teacher Rich Franklin talks about passing his first test in the ring

Rich Franklin went from a school teacher to one of the most respected champions in UFC history, but it all started in a small gym for the man who would become known as “Ace.”

Franklin recently opened up about his first professional fight, a bout showing just how green (but talented) he was at an early age.

“This is how dumb I was: we come out and we’re mixing it up, and I end up taking him down,” Franklin candidly began in an interview with MMAFighting. “I’m kind of cross-mounted on him and I have a submission, but I let it go and go to another submission, and I have a shoulder lock almost completely locked out, but then I thought, you know, I trained all these months, all these years, for a 30-second fight? I’m going to let him up. So I just let go, and the crowd – all 200 of them or whatever it was – went from screaming and yelling to completely speechless.”

“He got up and we mixed it up on our feet some more, but it was clear to me that I was just a step above this level of competition,” Franklin continued.

The popular 185er ended up finishing off the fight with a knee to the body when the referee stepped in before any more punishment could be unleashed. The bout gave him plenty of confidence, a point made clear by Franklin who said, “Early in my fight career, I really thought I was the baddest man on the planet. I was young and stupid.”

Eventually, the promoter of the company asked Franklin to leave because he didn’t have any fighters that could match skills with “Ace.” Another promoter offered him a sizable raise, and Franklin knew he had a new career.

“Before that I’d make a thousand bucks here or there and have a little extra money to buy Christmas gifts or something,” Franklin explained. “But to do this and really make money at it? That was a pretty wild idea. The sport was only just then evolving to the point where people were starting to make real money at it.”

Franklin went on to win the UFC middleweight title and defend it successfully twice. He is 28-6 in his career, including fifteen knockout wins and ten submission victories including past victories over Ken Shamrock, Evan Tanner, Matt Hamill,  Yushin Okami, Wanderlei Silva, and Chuck Liddell.

Currently, the 37-year old is sidelined with a tear of his labrum which he just had surgery to repair and won’t be back until 2012.