by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This past year wasn’t a good one for former UFC lightweight contender Hermes Franca. After years of stability and success, Franca hit a rough patch in 2005, losing three straight bouts and splitting from the American Top Team. Now after nearly six months away from fighting, Franca is back with a new team, rejuvenated and ready to reclaim his status as one of the best 155lb fighters in the world.

MMA Weekly caught up with Hermes recently as he continues preparations to make his return to action in March against Gabe “Godzilla” Ruediger for the WEC Lightweight Championship, to discuss last year, his new team and his future.

“2005 I did not so good, but I learned a lot with my losses,” admitted Franca. “I lost to tough guys, Yves (Edwards), (Ray) Cooper, and (Koutetsu) Boku the Japanese guy. I didn’t not so good with my training, I had a lot of problems in my personal life and with my last team, American Top Team, but right now I’m focused. I learned a lot and that’s most important. Now I’m okay, I have my own academy and now I train all during the day.”

Now that his life has stabilized, it’s apparent that Hermes is genuinely excited about his return to action. “I’m feeling good and am rich with opportunity again to show my game again. I’m so happy because I want to fight a belt. My name is still strong in the USA and I know I’m a good fighter. Like I told you before, I had some problems and I wasn’t focused, right now I’m focused, I want to fight and do my job again.”

Never one to take the easy road in anything, Franca’s first fight of 2006 could become an early candidate for fight of the year, as Hermes takes on red hot Gabe Ruediger for his title at WEC 19. According to Hermes, even though he is not completely familiar with Ruediger, he knows that Gabe is not someone to be taken lightly.

“I’m training hard because I don’t know what he does well,” explained Franca. “I’ve never saw him fight and I don’t want a surprise, so I’m training hard every day. I know he’s from Millennia Jiu-Jitsu, I know there’s tough guys over there like Javier Vazquez and other tough guys. I know he’s got good Jiu-Jitsu and for sure he’s tough because he has the belt.”

Hermes continued, “I know he’s strong, he has the belt, so I want to keep training hard every day. Wrestling, Thai, Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, everything, I don’t want any surprises, no surprises anymore.”

Considering things go well and Franca has a successful return, the reemergence of the lightweight division in the UFC and prospects abroad mean that there could be many opportunities ahead for Hermes. But not only are his fighting goals important to him, but also the continued growth of his new team and school.

“First of all the most important is to make my academy strong and get more students,” said Franca. “Day by day my academy is much, much better. I still love to fight; I can’t stop, not right now, so I hope to come back to the UFC. It’s good news that the 155 is back in the UFC, so I hope to fight in the UFC or K-1. Right now I just want to fight 100%, if I’m not feeling good to fight then I’m not going to fight. But I hope to fight in K-1 or the UFC again for sure.”

Hermes further commented, “Right now we have 6,000 square feet, we have wrestling, Thai, Jiu-Jitsu and grappling. In the future we are going to expand to like 10,000 square feet with rings, weights, we’re going to start the construction in a month. I hope it will be the best academy in Jupiter, Florida. I have good partners in training, Curt Pellegrino, Wald Bloise who is a Marco Ruas black belt, Rapheal Chaves, a good grappler from Brazil, and Paulo Guererro, a good Muay Thai fighter from Brazil. I hope in the future that The Armory is the best academy in Florida.”

Franca closed out the conversation by wanting to thank those who have remained by him and supported him through the rough year he’s had. “I just want to say thank you so much to my fans. I still have good fans and they support me every day and they’re going to see me again in the ring or the cage. I’m going to go 100% in my next fight. My sponsor is God, he gives to me what I need for sure.”

People interested in learning more about Franca’s academy, The Armory, can do so by going to www.amma.tv for information on location, class schedules, and instructors.