Franklin: Facing Liddell Fits with 205 Title Run

By Loretta Hunt Jun 4, 2010
When UFC President Dana White found his promotion in a bind, he called Rich Franklin.

In the final week of shooting Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter 11,” coach Tito Ortiz had just informed White that he’d need fusion surgery in his neck and wouldn’t be able to fight rival Chuck Liddell at UFC 115. Franklin was at home when he received White’s offer to replace Ortiz.

“There were two questions I had for Dana at the time,” said Franklin during a teleconference call on Friday. “One, I wanted to know if Tito was still going to be there -- they hadn’t decided yet if they were going to kick him off the show. And two, I asked Dana to check with Chuck and his camp to make sure he was cool with this. … I knew Chuck really wanted to fight Tito.”

Liddell’s distaste for Ortiz, a man he’s soundly beaten twice before in the Octagon, has been an ongoing dynamic of their rivalry since 2003. When White assured Franklin that the 40-year-old Liddell would handle the switch-up professionally, the former Ohio high school math teacher packed his bags.

Franklin and Liddell are friendly with each other, so the only true motivation both hold in this bout is a mutual one -- to move up the ranks toward a title shot.

A recharged Franklin accepted the assignment on the heels of a four-month sabbatical from the sport. Following a first-round TKO loss to Vitor Belfort in a 195-pound catch-weight bout at UFC 103 last September, a mentally depleted Franklin opted to take some time off, even turning down a couple of bouts the promotion offered him for early 2010.

“The fact was that I was mentally cashed, and when you start coming in to the gym and the moment you walk in, you’re looking at the clock and counting down the minutes till the time that you leave, that’s never a good thing,” said Franklin.

White’s offer came at an opportune time.

“This was about the time frame I wanted to jump back in anyway,” said Franklin. “I took time off and had the ability to physically reset and mentally reset, so the timing was perfect.”

Since losing his middleweight crown to reigning champion Anderson Silva at UFC 64 in October 2006, Franklin has fluctuated between the 185- and 205-pound UFC divisions. In June 2009, Franklin earned a unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva in a 195-pound catch-weight bout at UFC 99 in Cologne, Germany. The 35-year-old fighter then made his intentions known to return full-time to the light heavyweight ranks, where he’d begun his career in 2000. That plan took a detour when the UFC asked him to face off against Belfort at 195 pounds, a move made more for the returning Brazilian than Franklin himself.

“If there was a 195-pound weight division that would be great for me, but there’s not,” said Franklin. “I’ve always had problems making weight at 185. It takes a lot of effort for me to do it. At 205, I realized that I’m a taller fighter in that weight class.”

Facing the former light heavyweight champion Liddell at UFC 115 on June 12 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, aligns Franklin for another title run. After an off-season trip to Seattle with training pioneer Matt Hume, Franklin said he completed his nine-week camp exclusively in Ohio.

“That’s my plan (to stay at 205), but honestly, I didn’t plan on coming into the position I’m in now, coaching the show and fighting Chuck,” said Franklin. “Pretty much, I’m just the type of person that does what the UFC needs. … My plan is to just stay (at 205).”
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