This past weekend middleweight Rich Franklin was sent face-first into the canvas after eating a powerful counter hook from opponent Cung Le at UFC on Fuel 6. At 38 years old, and with mixed success in the Octagon over the past few years, the loss has left the MMA world wondering if they’ve seen the former champion inside the cage for the final time.
Currently, Franklin hasn’t hinted about his future in the wake of the brutal finish other than to say he’ll evaluate his options after taking some time to watch tape and talk to his team. Regardless of what he actually decides, the real question at this point is SHOULD he retire?
Of Franklin’s seven career stumbles, five have involved strike-based stoppages and more than one has left viewers concerned for the veteran’s well-being. He’s also 4-4 in his last eight fights without a Top 10 victory to his credit in more than five years. With his hopes of putting together one final run at the belt gone, Franklin has nothing else to compete for other than money and he’s not hurting in that department by any means. As a well-spoken, informed, and intelligent individual, “Ace” has a bright future as a representative of the UFC in a non-fighting capacity and, given his age, it’s time for him to explore it.
The punch that rendered Franklin into a puddle of goo would have done the same to any adversary who’d absorbed it. The timing and placement were perfect and all individuals are at risk of being KO’d when the right button is pushed. It was also the only the second time he’d been knocked out in his last nine fights despite competing against heavy-hitters like Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, and Dan Henderson. The time for concern is when he’s been flattened in 2-3 consecutive clashes, not a single instance. There are also plenty of interesting opponents left for Franklin out there at 185 pounds or 205 depending on what route he wants to go considering his name value and skill-set. At middleweight, Franklin could face someone along the lines of Hector Lombard, Brian Stann, or Michael Bisping and draw fans; likewise at light heavyweight with Mauricio Rua or Lyoto Machida. With a card planned for Ohio in March, Franklin should fight at least one more time before considering the possibility of hanging his trademark pink/brown trunks up for good.
There’s no need for Franklin to retire just because he suffered a knockout to Le. He’s shown an ability to recover from damage in the past and simply “got caught” in the bout. His chin isn’t the most durable in MMA to be sure but it isn’t made of Ming Dynasty porcelain just yet. Let him fight another big name this spring and go from there. Franklin has been a great ambassador for the sport in and out of the Octagon and deserves the opportunity to go out on his terms, not just because people might be pressuring him out of an emotional response to the nature of his loss.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC