Both are former champions. Both have coached on “The Ultimate Fighter.” They even get confused for one another by some fans. So it only seems natural that Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin finally get to fight each other at UFC 126 in the night’s co-main event.
Both fighters are coming off of extended layoffs with Franklin recovering from a broken arm suffered in his fight with Chuck Liddell, while Griffin has been out of the game for over a year after having shoulder surgery.
Franklin has heard people mention Forrest Griffin to him for years as a potential opponent, so he kind of figured at one time or another the UFC would get around to putting them in the Octagon together.
“Fans have been talking about this fight for several years,” Franklin said when appearing on MMAWeekly Radio. “I’ve had so many fans come up to me like ‘you know what would be a great fight? You and Forrest.’ I see Forrest at all the shows. He and I are friends and I really like Forrest, and it’s just one of those things like yeah that would be a great fight and you never really expect it to come to fruition.
“The UFC probably thought for the past several years much like the fans that, that would make a great match-up for a fight, and Forrest and I are stylistically very similar. So I do believe this is going to make a great match-up.”
Styles make fights and both Franklin and Griffin have racked up their fair share of wins in the UFC. Both have underrated ground games, but prefer the knockout. Both fighters have tremendous cardio and conditioning. One place where the similarities come to a screeching halt is the size of the fighters.
Franklin will walk into the fight on Saturday night weighing around 210 pounds, while Griffin, one of the largest fighters at light heavyweight will likely tip the scales near 230 pounds.
The size difference may be a lot, but Franklin doesn’t believe it will play too much of a factor once the fight starts.
“He’s 240 pounds, so if I’m pushing on 240 pounds the whole fight, it’s going to make a difference, it’s going to wear me down a little bit. The trick is not to be pushing against that weight the whole time,” Franklin explained. “I’ve always thought of guys like Matt Hamill being one of the strongest guys in the 205-pound division, he’s just strong, and I when I stepped in the Octagon with him, I didn’t have any issues with his strength. I never felt like I was outmatched with strength or anything like that. I don’t really see that being an issue.”
This fight will be Griffin’s second appearance since suffering a devastating loss to Anderson Silva in 2009. The former light heavyweight champion bounced back with a split decision win over Tito Ortiz, but the loss to Silva still comes up from time to time.
Franklin has his own experience dealing with a loss to Anderson Silva. The Cincinnati native dropped two fights to the current middleweight champion and he admits that a loss like that can stick with you.
“I don’t know if the loss affected (Forrest’s) psyche. I know after my second Silva loss, and then I fought (Jason) McDonald next, whatever fight it was, I remember walking into the Octagon and I was a bit gun-shy in that fight,” said Franklin. “It took probably about half a round for me to kind of work that out.
“I think in a situation like this now that Forrest has been back in the Octagon and had another win under his belt and proven to himself that, that was one fight, that was one night, and every night you come into the Octagon you’re a different fighter. That loss didn’t pre-determine his performance with Tito. With that said, I think his confidence will be back on track where it needs to be.”
Both Franklin and Griffin will be looking for footing in a crowded light heavyweight division with their fight at UFC 126. With champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua set to battle Rashad Evans in March, and a list of contenders biting at their heels, a win is crucial on Saturday night for both men.
Franklin doesn’t like to look too far ahead however, because looking at what’s next can sometimes cost what’s right in front of you.
“When I look at the overall big picture, let’s step back like 10 weeks before I knew that I was fighting Forrest. When I think about goals and all that kind of stuff, I think about pursuing the light heavyweight title, and that being an ultimate goal. With that being said, obviously once I start camp, that’s not my focus because if you tend to focus on the distant future then the near future’s what’s going to end up biting you. You have to pay attention to that kind of stuff,” said Franklin. “I know that Forrest is a tough fighter, and obviously I have him to get through before I can make any other plans for titles and all that kind of stuff.
“Instead of worrying about the future, I worry about today. And today, plus today, plus today, will equal tomorrow. And eventually Saturday will be today and as long as I do what I need to do then, the future will unfold as it needs to.”