Franklin Reflects on Winning UFC 185-lb. Title

By Steven Curtis Jun 7, 2005
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey, June 5 — “As of right now, there’s not much that I can do,” Rich Franklin told after winning the UFC 185-pound title Saturday night. “My hands are messed up. I can’t hit a bag. I’m having a hard time even doing things like opening water bottles.”

As fans, fighters and media rushed to congratulate him with handshakes, Franklin joked, “Don’t squeeze too hard.”

One can only imagine how Evan Tanner must feel after being picked apart by the new champion. After dropping his challenger with a straight right midway through round one, the Oregonian couldn’t close the deal. Franklin hung on, quickly seized control again and never let go.

Like a UFC version of Jake LaMotta, Tanner endured a varied, relentless punishment ranging from fast combinations to roundhouse kicks to the head. While he never lost his ability to defend or even damage, there were no cries of “premature stoppage” from his camp this time.

Both eyes swollen, left cheek swollen, bleeding from the left eye, Tanner was, to put it mildly, a wreck. His post-fight interview with Joe Rogan was mercifully short, and soon afterwards it was off to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Franklin — the self-proclaimed “guy from a small town in Ohio who couldn’t start on his high school football team” — put off his own treatment for a moment to talk to the Sherdog team.

Judging by how levelheaded he was about reaching the pinnacle of MMA, we got the impression that there would be no Shonie Carter-style pimp juice parties tonight. No, we’d bet that if he could, Franklin would pick up right where he left off, and get back to work. You mentioned what a long haul it’s been for you — your nine-month absence from the UFC and your doubts about ever getting back to the Octagon. How does it feel now?

Rich Franklin: The same thing was asked of me after I beat Ken Shamrock. Now I’m the middleweight champion and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just another fight. I’ll be fighting again in probably four or five months; it’s another stepping-stone in my career. Having already knocked Tanner out early the last time, your approach seemed to be a little more methodical this time around. Almost like you wanted to take him into deep water and drown him, which is what happened. Was that the plan going in?

Franklin: The strategy from my perspective was the same — only I got clipped, so some things about the fight are foggy for me. If you look at the way I fought Evan Tanner the first time, I was methodical about the combinations I picked, the counterpunching that I did, it’s just that from his end he wasn’t prepared to handle me as a southpaw. So it looked a lot easier. I clipped him nice in the first round and just capitalized on it. Basically, I tried to do the same thing tonight; it just took longer because he was doing a better job on his end. He seemed like he couldn’t handle your speed.

Franklin: It’s not necessarily the speed or the reflexes — it’s just that his stand-up is just not as refined as mine. At what point did you feel like, “I’ve got him?”

Franklin: To me, I honestly thought I was doing a good job of being in control in the first round, and then I got dropped. So I didn’t know, really, at what point I’d taken over the fight until I cut his eye open. When I put the cut over his left eye, I knew at that point he was in deep trouble. So now you’re a coach as well as a champion. What’s your game plan for TUF II?

Franklin: While I’ll definitely miss my team, I know I’m gonna have a great time. After I heal up over the next week or two I can hopefully start training with the guys when I’m out there. You mentioned earlier that winning the middleweight title was just another steppingstone in your career. But now you’re at the top. So what’s the next mountain for you to climb?

Franklin: Great fighters defend titles. Good ones get it. Great ones defend it.
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