by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Hermes Franca has already had the kind of year in just six months that many fighters wish they had in twelve. Franca has already won three fights in 2006, and is the Lightweight Champion in both the WEC and AFC.
Franca has stormed back after a rough 2005 and has once again become a top fighter in the lightweight division. As if he needed any further validation of his recent ascension, Hermes is now set to return to the UFC, where he will face rising star Roger Huerta on July 8th at UFC 61.
Just hours before fighting on Thursday’s WEC 21 event against Brandon Olsen, Franca told MMAWeekly, “I’m so excited. That’s what I was working for. All these fights, the two-a-days, all of it so the UFC, Pride, or K-1, the big organizations, want to have me. I’m excited to step in the cage, do my job, and get this opportunity.”
Roger Huerta has established himself over the past couple years as one of the top youngsters in the weight class, so Franca is expecting a tough fight on July 8th. At the same time, Franca also feels his veteran status will be a big advantage for him, not only in the fight against Huerta, but also against an increasingly young division in general.
“In the UFC, there’s a lot of young, tough guys,” commented Hermes. “Mark Hominick, Jorge Gurgel, Spencer Fisher… they’re coming on, so what can you do? It will be like ‘the old man’ versus ‘the new kid’ [laughs].”
Regarding the UFC fight against Huerta, Franca said, “I have more experience. Of course, this will help me, but this guy [Huerta] is so tough. He’s got good wrestling, striking, will be in good shape, and will come into the cage 100 percent ready and very hungry, so it will be a good fight.”
Although his UFC return fight scheduled to take place in just a few short weeks, a desire to honor his obligations means that Franca will still be fighting tonight in the WEC.
“I got a call from [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva like Monday, so I could not cancel this WEC fight,” explained Franca. “I won my first fight in 2006 in the WEC. [WEC promoter] Scott Adams has been good to me and I have the belt, so I want to do a good job for them and fight.”
Even with the anticipation of his return to the UFC on the horizon, Hermes remains focused on the task at hand.
“First of all, I’m thinking about the WEC. I’m focused for my fight today. I’m going to go in and do my job. After that, then I’ll think about the UFC,” concluded Franca.