Rich Franklin File Photo: Sherdog.com
Rich Franklin doesn’t want to be remembered as the man who ended Chuck Liddell’s career.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet victory because Chuck and I are friends,” Franklin said Saturday after knocking out Liddell in the first round of the UFC 115 main event. “I really like Chuck. I went to his locker room after the fight to check on him, but he was with the doctors and I just spoke with John Hackleman for a few seconds. I don’t want to be labeled as the person who kind of put him out of the sport or whatever. I don’t like the thought of that.”
Yet Franklin was happy the fight ended when it did at 4:55 of the opening period. He suspects he broke his arm while blocking a kick from Liddell roughly two minutes into the bout.
“I definitely wasn’t going to quit,” Franklin said at the post-fight news conference. “I’ve broken bones before and continued fighting. There was a part of me that was wondering … like what kind of strategy I was going to use to win the fight with a broken left arm in the second and third round.”
The fight didn’t make it that far. Both men landed strikes, with Franklin scoring the cleaner punches but Liddell packing the power.
“Chuck caught me with a couple punches,” Franklin said. “I kind of got stupid standing in front of him, but it looked like he was making himself tired. I was just kind of letting him make himself tired. He was putting a lot of energy into punches that weren’t landing.”
Franklin, a former UFC middleweight champion, entered the fight with a 27-5 record. He hadn’t fought since his September 2009 loss to Vitor Belfort. However, Liddell had an even longer break, not competing since his April 2009 defeat to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. UFC President Dana White had said Liddell would not fight again following that loss, but he let him back in the cage after the 40-year-old former light heavyweight champion rededicated himself to training.
Liddell looked to have hurt Franklin late in the first. He connected with a combination, and Franklin backed into the cage.
“I was fine,” Franklin said. “The punches landed. He hit me with a two-piece, and it landed pretty good. I stepped back -- I was already moving back with my momentum. I just remember thinking, ‘I’m not rocked or anything, but I can’t let that continue to happen.’ But I was fine. I think that he thought he had me more hurt than I was.”
Liddell moved in for the finish, and Franklin countered with a right hand. The punch floored Liddell and likely ended his storied career.
“He follows up big when he thinks he has you hurt,” Franklin said, “and I just tried to stay tight and threw the lead hook, and it caught him on the chin.”