On Saturday, former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin (28-6, 1 NC) will rematch former Pride middleweight champion Wanderelei Silva (34-11-1, 1 NC) at UFC 147 in Brazil. The two first fought at UFC 99 in June 2009 in Cologne, Germany, with Franklin taking home the unanimous decision victory.
Franklin has been out of action since February 2011 when he lost a unanimous decision to Forrest Griffin at a catchweight of 190 pounds. He was originally expected to return in August 2011 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira but Nogueira pulled out due to injury and a suitable replacement was never found. Following that Franklin suffered a shoulder injury and underwent surgery.
On ring rust
The UFC held a UFC 147 conference call today with the headliners and co-headliners and Franklin talked about his long layoff. “I’m not really concerned about ring rust,” he said. “I think ring rust is prominent in two types of fighters; young fighters or fighters that take significant amounts of time off. Even though I haven’t fought since February, I was getting ready in August for the Philadelphia show and that fight ended up canceling. But it only canceled a couple weeks before the show and I pretty much did everything I needed to do to get ready for that fight, so for me it doesn’t feel like I have been out of the Octagon that long.”
“Now granted, I did have the shoulder surgery in October, but my shoulder healed really well as far as flexibility and mobility and all that kind of stuff is concerned, I’m way ahead of the charts on that kind of stuff when I was going through rehab, so I couldn’t be happier with the way my recovery went. So none of that stuff is going to really be a concern for me.”
On the rematch with Silva
Wanderlei was originally scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort at UFC 147 and Franklin was to fight Cung Le. Franklin even traveled to Singapore to prepare for Cung’s unique fighting style. However, Belfort was injured and the UFC asked Franklin to step in to fight Wanderlei. Because he and Wanderlei had already fought before, Franklin was asked if that made it easier to take the fight on short notice.
“No, not really,” he said. “Fighters like Wanderlei are smart fighters and they’ve been around the business for awhile and they don’t get to where they are by not being smart fighters, you can’t develop a career like that. I think that a fighter of his caliber can take away from the first fight the things they need to change in order to improve their performance in the second fight. So if anything I expect this to be a tougher fight for me.”
Franklin was also asked how much he could really take away from their first fight being that it was now three years ago. “You can take some anytime you watch a fight, but the core of the fighter will always be there,” Franklin said. “I have natural tendencies. Wanderlei has natural tendencies. And those things don’t go away when things start getting hot and heavy in the Octagon. But since that fight there could be little tricks that he’s added to his game here and there that could make things difficult that I would have to look out for that I won’t see in that film.”
Franklin was questioned about his motivation to carry on at this point in his career, or is he nearing that inevitable day that always comes sooner or later — retirement. “The motivation is definitely there. You can’t get through an eight week camp without motivation,” Franklin said. “Even though I wasn’t originally fighting Wanderlei, I was motivated enough to relocate myself to another country to specifically train for Cung and fighters that fight like him.”
“But being 37 obviously I’m a little bit older of an athlete now and motivation often times ends in questions that I’ve been asked about retirement and stuff like that. And I realize I’m closer to retirement now than I was several years ago even. As far as this fight goes, for me motivation is a big factor because I have to come into a fight in good shape in order to perform and I feel like I’m in great shape for this fight. Like I said earlier I’m lighter coming into this fight cutting than I was last time at 185. I’ve done all the necessary steps I needed to do to get ready for this fight and I feel great about it.”
On one more title run
Franklin has suffered two devastating knockout losses to current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The last time they fought was in October 2007 at UFC 77. Since then he moved up to light heavyweight and fought a couple times at 195 pounds. Franklin said the plan now is to return to 185 and make one more run at the title before he hangs it up.
“Definitely, that’s part of the thought process of dropping back to 185 pounds. At 205 I was just not a big enough fighter. And I knew that my record there is kind of mixed anyway so I knew that trying to make a title run would be a really difficult thing to do with that kind of size disadvantage. So moving back down to 85 at least gave me the opportunity to try to make a title run perhaps before I retire and that’s the plan.”
On Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva will put his title on the line one more time next month against Chael Sonnen. Franklin was asked if he would like to fight Sonnen if he ends up defeating Silva and takes home the title. “That’s something I would have to talk to the UFC about,” Franklin said. “I’m not sure that coming into a fight with Wanderlei, if a win here would necessarily put me in that position or not. I don’t know where this will put me as far as rankings and standings with title shots and all that kind of stuff. Quite frankly, just with all the changes and everything with my opponent going from Cung to Wanderlei, I’ve had enough on my plate to think about just with this opponent, let alone even considering pursuing a title shot right now.”