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Monday, 05/07/2012, 10:40 am

Exclusive | Rich Franklin talks Le, Anderson, Sonnen, and more


Rich Franklin is an MMA legend there is no doubt about that. He has fought in the UFC for most of his MMA career, and his a former UFC Middleweight Champion. After losing to Anderson Silva twice he made the jump up to the light heavyweight division, but Rich recently made the decision to return to the division he was once the king of. Waiting to welcome him back to 185 – Cung Le.

“Cung is a different kind of fighter”, Franklin said. “He’s real unorthodox and throws different kinds of kicks from different angles. It will be a whole different look compared to a traditional kickboxer or boxer. A lot of times when you’re fighting guys like that they throw those types of things they’re not supposed to throw at the times they’re not supposed to throw them. For this camp it’s really important to have a training partner who mimics his style really well”.

Franklin versus Le is on arguably one of the most stacked pay-per-views in UFC history. Headlining the event is the rematch between Anderson Silva and his arch-rival Chael Sonnen. Preparation for this fight is no different for Franklin than any other.

“I’ve been on big cards before”, stated Rich. “I don’t have any problems when it comes to that kind of stuff. I think I’m a game day kind of guy so I like that and I invite it. Especially with an opponent like Cung. He’s an exciting fighter, and I’m an exciting fighter. Honestly, I think this is going to be a truly exciting fight. I really believe that”.

With Rich dropping back down to his comfortable 185 pound home it seems only fair to say that at any given moment he is two or three fights away from a title shot. Rich seems to agree.

“I think so. I think you’re probably right. I would have to put two or three wins together before they would consider giving me a title shot. I got Cung in the meantime and this is a really good way to step back in to the 185 pound division. It’s a good return fight for me because he’s coming off a bit of a layoff himself. On top of that he was the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion and he’s someone who brings some credentials to the table. A win here would place me well
back in to the 185 pound mix of things”.

With the headliner on the card of his UFC 148 fight with Le being the consensus number one and two middleweights in the world the what if scenario of Franklin vs. Sonnen comes in to view. Should Chael defeat Anderson that is a very good possibility, and one that appears to be an interesting fight for Rich.

“Honestly I would have to sit down and evaluate Chael as a fighter on tape, which I haven’t done”, Franklin said. “I will say that a fight with Chael would be an exciting fight either way. To really give an assessment I would really have to break down Chael as a competitor. Off the cuff, he is a great wrestler and I would have to defend his takedowns. What he did to Anderson in the last fight walking through punches and securing the takedowns worked. You have to guess Chael will also come up with a new gameplan himself for me”.

In line for a shot at Silva’s belt is Michael Bisping. The Count embarrassed fan favorite Jason Miller before losing a close decision to previously mentioned Chael Sonnen. It is all but confirmed that Bisping is very close to facing the winner of Sonnen vs. Silva. Rich is aware of this, and a Bisping fight also intrigues him.

“I would definitely welcome a fight with Michael Bisping. He is a great all around fighter”, said Rich. “In the 185 pound class you can start looking at the talent like Bisping across the board, and there is a ton of interesting match-ups for me there. Even the fight with Cung came out of left field. This was not a fight I was expecting to be offered to me after the shoulder surgery. I was kind of taken aback, but
really when I looked at the fight I thought this was a really interesting fight and I like the way that we match up. When I look at the 185 pound class there is such a talent pool that if you look at the top 5-10 guys you can’t go wrong and I would always get an
exciting fight”.

According to Franklin the question of a third fight with Anderson Silva comes up a lot. His response to the question of “What has changed since you lost the first two to Silva” itself has not changed.

“Look at the first fight with Anderson and I, and then look at the second fight. Obviously the first fight the deciding factor was the clinch. Everyone talks about Anderson’s clinch game to this day, but that was something we were able to basically nullify in the second fight. Unfortunately at the end of the first round of that second fight I happened to get clipped. Prior to getting dropped at the end of that round I was really pleased at how that round was unfolding. We’d have to go back to the table and look at the fight prep for what we did there. Anderson’s style has changed quite a bit since he and I fought
anyway. When he and I fought he was very straight up with his Thai style boxing, and now he’s unorthodox and moves a lot more. He’s in and out a lot more and utilizes his footwork that he’s always had. He may pose some different problems that we would have to address and I think he would have issues with some of what I bring to the table now”.

Like many UFC career fighters Rich is approaching the 40 year old mark. Granted it’s still a couple of years away, but it is coming. Franklin has thought about what might mark the end of his career, and when that might happen.

“I’ve done a good job of planning for the future and I have done a good job for myself financially given the money that I’ve made”, Rich stated. “At the same time I am also the type of guy that lives for the day and right now my body feels good, and I’m motivated for this fight with Cung. I’m ready to go and as long as I continue to feel this way I’ll continue to fight. As long as I perform at the top level I’m still getting in there. I’ve sat down with my coaches and told them that if there ever came a day when they see me and feel like I’ve kind of lost a step then tell me. If it comes from my coaches I will know. I don’t want to be in that dream where I think that I am good enough and continue”.

For more information on Rich Franklin please visit www.richfranklin.com and www.acesway.com

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