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Rich Franklin: I think I have a few good years left fighting in the UFC Light Heavyweight division (long interview transcript)

By Zach Arnold | June 4, 2010

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From Inside the Ultimate Fighter, a 20 minute interview this week with Rich Franklin. I like to listen to him talk and also read his thoughts about his training, fight strategy, and his overall take on the business in general. He’s a guy who is willing to give you more than just a quick sound bite.

When you read the quotes about the hernia surgery he had last January, it kind of makes you cringe. I thought it was interesting how open he is in admitting that he wished he hadn’t have taken the Vitor Belfort fight. He makes a very good comparison between the schedules of MMA fighters and boxers and how the two professions are viewed differently by the fans.

The last time we saw you was back in September in Dallas when you lost to Vitor Belfort. It was your fourth fight in 12 months. Your manager said you needed a long vacation.

“Well, you know, I wouldn’t it call a vacation necessarily. I did have some down time, of course, it was over a lot of the Winter months with Thanksgiving and Christmas so I did get to spend some time with my family but in January I had to have hernia surgery down on my stomach and that was one of the things that I had done and of course we spent some time doing business, different kind of business ventures for American Fighter and you know meetings and stuff and things that are for future stuff when I’m done fighting and stuff like that so it wasn’t just a complete vacation, it was just time away from fighting.”

What was the cause of the hernia problem you had? Was it a sports hernia?

“Yeah, I’m assuming that it was. What happened was I had an umbilical hernia, my belly button was actually just completely tearing away and detaching from my stomach lining and I noticed this sometime around the Henderson fight, I think it was just a little bit before the Henderson fight and I’m assuming that this started from training, heavy lifting, something like that and my belly button started to just have like a slight tear in it and really what happened was my belly button started to protrude out, it was sticking out and at first it didn’t you know it was just it looked a little different, no big deal. You know I remember looking at my belly button one day going like, ‘hmm, that kind of looks different.’ But there was no pain involved and so this kept carrying on and it started progressively getting worse at least in my mind I was thinking “is this getting worse or is just me fabricating you know a worse situation?” and I remember one day I was I actually had gone out to Salt Lake City to visit Jeremy Horn, I was at his school and I was doing a seminar and a friend of mine and I we went to a hot yoga class out there and I was doing this stretch backwards like a belly button stretch standing and stomach stretch and when I looked to the side I noticed my belly button was sticking out really bad. So I got home from that trip I went to the doctor and the doctor explained to me that it was an umbilical hernia and that they say if it doesn’t hurt he said you know if it’s not inhibiting you from doing anything athletically then you can continue going he said but the tear will get worse and some at point in time you will have to take care of it and I figured, well, since I have some down time now, now’s a good time if any to take care of this surgery so I did that and it was about, I guess a total of about eight weeks down. After about six or seven weeks I could start you know doing some small things but I wasn’t allowed to really lift any heavy weights, anything heavier than 20 pounds for about eight weeks.”

How is your body feeling right now?

“At the start of this camp I felt great, physically refreshed, mentally refreshed, and I would say that physically I was a bit run-down, little bumps and bruises and dings and all of that kind stuff here and there but noting major going on, but I was mentally burned out. Having to great ready for one big fight after the next after the next, it just mentally tears you down and so coming into this camp I was mentally and physically refreshed and I’m at the point now where I’ve put in you know close to 10 weeks of training and I’m at the point now where my body is saying, “it’s time to fight” and I need a couple of weeks to relax a little bit so I’m right there, I’m peaking at the right time, everything is coming together as it should and I feel really good.”

When you went back into training, did you enter into it gradually or just attacked it full-bore?

“No. I went back into gradually. You figure that the surgery was in January and I had taken eight weeks off so that takes me to March, almost March pretty much, and for you know around March and so I have had basically March until now June when I’ve been training pretty much full time again. And of course when I first started training, I’m not doing double sessions and all those kinds of things but going with it lighter and easing back into the sparring and whatnot and doing what I need to do so I’ve been basically full-on since March again.”

Do you consider Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) to be your home weight class now for fighting?

“Well, you know, the fights that I had at catch weight were originally supposed to be at 205 and the people that I was fighting, Wanderlei (Silva) and Vitor, both requested the fight be at 195. I’m not really sure why because both of those guys had previously fought at 205 but for whatever reason you know they both wanted to fight at 195 and of course the UFC came to me and said will you just take these fights at 195 and I said, yeah, whatever, I’m easy, it doesn’t matter. So, really, since the (Matt) Hamill fight, since the UFC have had talk with me I’ve pretty much considered 205 my home. Now, I’m a never-say-never kind of guy, so who knows after this fight with Chuck (Liddell), I don’t know what could happen with my next fight. You never know and any time I try to predict the future for myself, I tend to be wrong so with that I make sure that I have some flexibility in the way that I do things, kind of go with the flow but yeah as far as I’m concerned 205 is my home.”

What about the ability to gain more size and muscle to compete after the bigger guys in the weight class?

“Yeah. Here’s the thing — for me, I’m 35 years old and I’m going to have a hard time putting on a significant amount of muscle at this point in my life especially with the amount of cardio that I do and I have managed to put on a few pounds since I was fighting at 185, I think when I fought at 185 I was probably walking around at about 208 pounds and now I walk around at about just right under 215, maybe like 213, 214 or something like that. And honestly that’s about as good as it’s going to get for me. If I can manage to put on a few more pounds, then I think I’ve pretty much topped out. But, so you know, I realize that I’m just not going to be a big fighter in the 205 pound weight class.”

You always seem to be Dana White’s go-to-guy for the dirty work. Why does he feel so comfortable having you do this?

“He’s probably feels comfortable because I don’t say no very often. I mean that’s all I can think, I’m kind of a company man I guess you know. If they need something done, then I’m going to do it and most of the stuff Dana asks of me is things that I’m willing to do anyway. The only thing that I’ve really never just never really wanted to do was the Vitor fight. Before that fight I really wanted to take some time off and against my better judgment I went ahead and fought the fight which I shouldn’t have but you know most of the stuff that he requests of me is not like he’s twisting my arm to get it done, it just works out. This whole thing with Chuck, for example, I mean he came to me and said, ‘look, Tito’s hurt, we need you to fill in and fight Chuck’ and the first thing out of my mouth, ‘have you talked to Chuck about it and if so what did his camp say?’ and he said, ‘You know we talked to Chuck and business is business and they realize that you know sometimes you got to do things for business and they’re willing to take the fight’ and I said ‘as long as they’re cool with it, I’m good with it’ and we moved forward. So it’s a good opportunity, it’s a good fight for me. I like the match-up and so it wasn’t something that, you know, he hit me at the right time. I had plenty of time off. I was ready to start training for something and so all the parameters kind of came into play that you know everything lined up that it needed to do.”

Do you regret taking the fight with Vitor Belfort?

“I don’t have regrets. Hindsight’s always one of those things that I would have done things differently but there are no regrets because that’s just one of those things that has put me in the position that has put me in the position that I’m right now and things could have been, I could have done things to avoid it. Having a loss on my record and all that kind of stuff, but it is what it is.”

Do you consider yourself a UFC lifer?

“Yeah, I would say so that if the UFC had a job for me to do in the future they would find something for me to do. If it was commentating, maybe I would get offered a position there. Something like that. But, yeah, I would never see myself retiring from the UFC and going to work for a different organization doing some other kind of job.”

Did you have any issues with having to travel to Las Vegas at the last moment?

“While I was out there I took care of a lot of other things that needed to be take care of, photo shoots for the fight and a lot of the medical testing that I had to have done.”

Were you nervous having to coming in at the last-minute on The Ultimate Fighter and coach new fighters you previously didn’t have a relationship with?

“What you guys are watching each week on The Ultimate Fighter, I’m watching the same. Like I don’t know anything that, all that like last week’s episode all the stuff that happened, I didn’t know any of that stuff happened until I actually watched it on television. In coming out to Vegas, like when I was walking into the situation, I didn’t know like… I didn’t know any body at all and I didn’t know what was going on with Tito being hurt, how serious it was, and as of a matter of fact I thought that I went I got out there that actually Tito (Ortiz) may still be there, you know, as a coach on the show, that he might actually still be around. And when I got out there, you know he had left so the way that it was explained to me was that Tito’s injured, we need you to come out here to help build up a fight and I said that you know is he still going to be there when I get there, like is he still going to be coaching… and basically Dana just said, “I don’t know, we’re not sure what we’re going to do,” and when I got out there I wasn’t told a whole lot of stuff. I didn’t know like who won, who lost, you know like who fought who, who won and who lost, how the fights panned out, all I knew is that I had who I had left on my team to coach and everybody else you know, these guys you know some guys were at that point in time there to help out with training and some guys were not spending as much time helping certain guys prepare for fights and all that kind of stuff. I had no clue how that had all been dealt so I’m watching it for the first time on television just like everybody else.”

Tito’s fighters have been painted as troublemakers in the house. What were they like to you when you met them? Did you have any issues?

“Yeah, I mean, there was kind of a guess maybe a bit of nervousness because I’m walking into the situation, I don’t know how the team is doing, I don’t know how many fighters I have left, I don’t know what I have to work with, I don’t know if they had a good relationship with Tito or a bad relationship, if there was anything that happened there that the show wasn’t telling me because they’re obviously not going to disclose everything to me and really you just kind of walking into something blindly and you just kind of on-the-blind-faith do what you’re going to do. And so when I went into the show, of course you know they receptive of having me there. That was great. But… you know, I didn’t know any of that. And, yes, when I got there, there was definitely a division amongst the team. But everybody seemed to at least either get along or tolerate each other and so when I’ve seen of the things that have happened over the past couple episodes, like I just didn’t realize you know that there was so much turmoil within the team with certain team members cheering for other guys and guys being accused of stealing and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t realize that those things were happening. But, you know, my focus was on the fighters that I had to prepare for a fight and that’s what I needed to do and so I focused on those guys and everything else, all the other guys, it was all about just making sure that I you know helped who needed to be helped.”

What do you find the most interesting thing about your upcoming fight with Chuck Liddell in Vancouver?

“I mean, it’s Chuck. I’m fighting, of course, Chuck’s already a UFC Hall of Famer, he’s a UFC legend, and he’s got a who’s who of victories and all that kind of stuff and of course here recently he’s had a little bit of a rougher road to go but it’s Chuck Liddell and you know a lot of people are talking about Chuck having to hang up the hat and all that kind of stuff and I tell you when I saw Chuck out there on the show, he was in the best shape I’ve ever seen in him in his entire career. You know, even the younger Chuck, he just… I think Tito had definitely motivated him to get ready for a fight and all that kind of stuff so I think that with this fight with Chuck you’re going to walk out and you’re going to see the best Chuck Liddell, probably the best Chuck Liddell you’ve ever seen but definitely you know the best Chuck Liddell that we’ve seen in a long time. And you know with that being said, it’s just at the end of the day, this is one of those fights. It took the fight like 33 minutes to sell out. Chuck’s an exciting fighter, I’m an exciting fighter, win or lose we’re both exciting fighters and we’re going to put on a good fight and the fans know it and that’s why this fight sold out so quickly. And I honestly believe that the fight is going to live up to the expectations of the fans.”

Both of you are coming off of long layoffs. Who will be more effected by their layoff?

“I don’t know. I don’t know how much effect that has on any body. You know, the thing is, it’s so funny in this sport because you know people expect you to fight like three or four fights a year and the turnaround time in a sport like boxing is way slower than this, you know you look at some of the top guys in boxing, guys like Floyd Mayweathers and Manny Pacquiaos and stuff like that and there hyping up a fight between those two guys but you think about like how long that fight has been in the works and the level of fighters that they’ve been fighting in between now and then and how often they’ve been fighting and it’s just, it’s a different thing. I mean, you know, a lot of top-level boxers, they’ll take a fight and go six to nine to twelve months without fighting again and that’s a normal pace in boxing, but here it’s not. And so I don’t think that you know I don’t think a nine month or a twelve month or maybe even a fourteen month layoff really has that much of an impact on the athlete, especially if the athlete is still training and doing the things that he needs to be doing in between the fights. Now if you’re going to fight a fight and then walk out of the gym for the next six, seven months of your life and then try to get back in, obviously that’s going to have an effect on your fight game. But if you fight a fight and then of course you kind of go on… you’re not in fight prep mode in your training schedule and you’re more in a relaxed state of mind so you can train and let your body recover and you’re not doing double sessions and all that kind of stuff and you’re working on improving yourself technically in the down time, then I’m not sure that taking that time off really is going to effect you that much.”

When both of you were champions in the UFC at the same time, was there any desire or talk about having a champion vs. champion match?

“I mean, you think about things. Like, I’ve always thought about that. I wonder what it would be like to fight this person and that person. But, I never really thought that anything like that would materialize because I was 185 pounder, he was a 205 pounder, and of course those weight classes at the time were when we were champions had enough contenders in them that you didn’t have to worry about who were you going to fight next to defend your title against. Neither one of us needed to. Now, like at 185 pounds, for example they’re having a difficult time creating contenders or having contenders that have been in the weight class long enough to create that recognition, like OK this guy deserves the next shot or whatever. And so you can possibly think about things like that, but you know back when we were both champions it just, I never really would have thought that would have happened because we were at two separate weight classes.”

Is the allure of fighting at Light Heavyweight because there are so many top contenders and prospects right now in the division?

“It is. I like swimming with the sharks, I guess you could say.”

How much time left do you see yourself having as an active fighter?

“I would figure two, maybe three (years) at the most. It seems like every time somebody asks me that question the answer is two years and so I would imagine two years from now I’ll be asked that question and I’ll say, yeah, maybe two more years. So, I don’t really know. I know that I feel pretty good when I get in the morning physically and until that starts to take a toll on my body where I’m like, OK, I think that I definitely need to consider hanging up the hat, then I’m good to go. You know, I feel like I’m as fast now as I was five, six, seven years ago in this game and I haven’t lost a step yet and I’ve told my coaches and my management, I’m like look, if it ever appears to you that I’ve lost a step or something like that, let me know because then it’s time for me to bow out gracefully.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to “Rich Franklin: I think I have a few good years left fighting in the UFC Light Heavyweight division (long interview transcript)”

  1. edub says:

    I have never heard him commentate or do any pbp.

    However, I feel this is the guy everyone was thinking about when speaking of a fighter for mma live for after fighting. He’s humble, was a great mixed martial artist in his prime, well spoken, and doesn’t seem to carry any vendetta’s.

    I have always been a huge Rich Franklin fan, so am i letting that cloud my judgememnt when I say he would be perfect for that kind of job?

  2. […] last time I did a transcript of a Rich Franklin interview, most of you ignored it. So, go read it. Maybe I should have headlined with the fact that he used the phrase ‘hot yoga … It’s actually a very good interview. In fact, Rich is one of a few fighters in Mixed Martial […]

  3. […] pointed out by Rich Franklin himself in recent interviews he’s done (here and here), he’s coming off of a long layoff and he said he was glad to take a break from the […]


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