by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
It wasn’t an easy job, but former UFC middleweight champ Rich
Franklin got it done, stopping former training partner Matt Hamill with a liver
kick in the final round of their UFC 88 fight in Atlanta. The onslaught of
takedowns Franklin and many pundits expected never came, and as the fight wore
on, his kicks made sure of that. His lone stay on the mat was short lived.
“I just put myself in the mindset that if I ended up on my back I
was comfortable there anyway, it didn’t matter to me,” he said. “I assumed that
he would probably have several shot attempts that I just wouldn’t be able to
defend, because he’s such high caliber wrestler.
“I always do a good job with my guard, or at least try to keep
moving and work my way back to my feet if I’m going to be on bottom. Because
the last thing I want to do is sit there and take some punishment.”
Franklin had not fought in the light heavyweight division for
three years. In preparation, he ramped up his food intake and watched his body
slowly change. It had a hard time remembering what being heavier felt like. It
took him time and protein powder to get in the groove.
“Once I got into camp, training for Matt (Hume), doing two-a-days,
the weight just started to drop off me a little bit,” he said. “I think I
peaked out at 214, and then leveled out around 210.”
It’s a cut he’ll be happy make in the future, though. Franklin
squeezed every bit of water possible out of his body to make the middleweight
class. Often at weigh-ins, he looked sunken in and miserable—not a guy
you’d want to be around come fight day.
“To be honest, the weight cutting is way better for me at 205 than
it is at185. It’s a much more enjoyable week—you can ask my camp,” he
said with a smile.
After the fight, Franklin expressed relief that he had not done
too much damage to his friend. He took the fight only when he learned
Hamill had accepted, and even then, it was bittersweet to take a victory by
hurting a friend.
“I’m just glad that neither one of us was laying on the canvas
unconscious or something like that,” Franklin said. “The fight kind of unfolded
the way it did, we came to the press conference and were in the medical room
getting stitches at the same time—mine worse than his. I’m glad that I
won, I can’t deny that, but Matt’s a friend, and that’s the bitterness of the
Franklin now faces a quandary. Should he continue to blaze a trail
in the light heavyweight division, or go back to middleweight? He has
made his name in the division, but a roadblock exists to title glory—that
of Anderson Silva. He says the UFC doesn’t want to see a third match-up between
the two, and Franklin is a cut above all but arguably a few of his 185-pound
stable mates. For now, he will travel at the whim of the UFC and the fans.
“I’ll talk to (UFC matchmaker) Joe (Silva) after this, whether I’m
staying at 205,” he said. “Perhaps they want me to stay at 205, perhaps they
are in a position where they say let’s just do this fight, or this fight,
because they’re exciting fights and the fans want to see them. Bouncing back
and forth between 185 and 205 is actually do-able because at some point in
time, if I was going to stay in this division, I would have to really put my
mind at continuing to put on weight.”
A quick look at the 205 division reveals a fight with history for
Franklin, that of Lyoto Machida. In 2003, before Franklin’s era as a UFC
mainstay, Machida handed him his first loss at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye in Japan.
Franklin says he’s not in a rush to delve into the past unless he’s called to
“I said the same thing about Silva after the first loss. If that
was something that was good for the UFC and good for the fans, I’d be
interested,” he finished. “But I’m not the guy that’s like ‘Machida beat me, I
need to avenge that loss.’ I’m not having good luck with those southpaws from
Chute Box anyway, so we’ll see what happens.”
UFC 88 PRELIM REVIEW: PELLEGRINO & TAVARES IMPRESS