Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin understands the type of business he’s in. That business is what many mixed martial fans know as the fight game.
In said fight game there are little aspects that play a big role in developing a fight for a proposed card. Take the injury torn UFC 133 fight card, for example. This event was scheduled to have some major fights take place on Aug. 6 in Philadelphia. Instead, injuries cursed the card and gave the event a facelift that some saw as improvement, but most viewed as a step towards ugly.
Franklin was a part of that card’s shuffling, as he saw his opponent, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, go down due to injury just three weeks outside of their scheduled meeting. Phone calls to and from his manager filled the first part of that weekend for Franklin. Then he gets word that a new fight is offered with a relative unknown in Alexander Gustafsson.
“I don’t know who that is,” Franklin told MMAWeekly Radio when describing the conversation he had with his manager. “The name rang a bell, but I hadn’t seen him fight.”
The former 185-pound champ wasn’t too happy about having to fight someone on three weeks notice, especially someone he’s never heard of, but he realizes this is the nature of the business. So, Franklin does his due diligence and studies up on tape of Gustafsson.
Sunday afternoon arrives and “Ace” has one last conversation with his manager. Although he doesn’t particularly care for the fight and views it as a “lose-lose situation,” Franklin informs his manager that he accepts the bout with Gustafsson. It was difficult to see the upside of a proposed match-up with a tough kid that not a lot of people know of.
But last-minute changes, again, are commonplace in the sport. That’s all fine, according to Franklin, he just wants to make sure he’s taken care of and gets the appropriate paycheck at the end of the day.
“As I always do, I’ll take this fight,” he said. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t mess anything up with my payday because we work on bonuses and I don’t want them to look at him as a prelim fighter and this drops my pay scale.”
Beyond that, there were no other requests or stipulations regarding the proposed Gustafsson fight, according to Franklin. He didn’t want any more money than he had been promised when he first signed on to fight Nogueira; he simply wanted to make sure he was in good standing. Unfortunately, communication fell apart at some point and the bout with Gustafsson was never finalized. Franklin never fought on the UFC 133 card and the result was backlash on message boards and social media platforms. Fans took shots at the one-time UFC champion and accused him of ducking out of the fight.
He’s not one to listen to what a lot of people think of him, but Franklin says he carries himself a lot better than what people were giving him credit for. If a picture were painted of the situation, the Cincinnati mixed martial artist would be portrayed as the one avoiding it. This didn’t sit well with him because he feels he’s far from the type to duck and run.
The UFC veteran and future Hall of Fame inductee has a reputation to uphold.
“I’ve never turned down a fight, I’ve never pulled out of a fight,” he said. “You guys know me better than that.”