Opinion: The End of Rich Franklin?
By Jesse Heitz
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a saddening, yet inevitable transformation within the sport of MMA. The familiar faces of the old guard have all but disappeared from the cages and rings that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them in. Just this year, we’ve witnessed the final cage exits of: Randy “The Natural” Couture, Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz, and Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko. Now it may very well be time to add another name to that list, the name of Rich “Ace” Franklin.
Rich Franklin rose to mainstream MMA prominence nearly a decade ago, when he secured a technical knockout win against the late Evan Tanner at UFC 42. While he polished off Edwin Dewees and Jorge Rivera at UFC 44 and UFC 50 respectively, it wasn’t until his bout with MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock at “The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale” that he entered into the consciousness of the then blossoming casual MMA fan base.
In that April 2005 bout, he clearly demonstrated what a true MMA fighter looked like, a truly well-rounded fighter who could flawlessly transition from striking to wrestling to submissions. Franklin’s hybrid style stood in stark contrast to that even of Shamrock, who can largely be considered one of the precursors to the hybrid style in organized MMA.
From there, sky was the limit for “Ace”. A few months later at UFC 53, Franklin locked horns with Tanner yet again, this time winning the UFC Middleweight Championship. At UFC 56 and 58, he successfully defended his title against Nate “The Rock” Quarry and David “The Crow” Loiseau. UFC President Dana White quickly labeled him as “the greatest Middleweight Champion of all-time”.
Unfortunately, Franklin’s era atop the UFC’s Middleweight Division came to an abrupt end in his next fight at UFC 64, at the hands of the man who still holds to the championship to this day, Anderson “The Spider” Silva.
While Franklin has never again captured UFC gold, he has remained a contender in any division he has competed in, be it middleweight or his fruitless time spent in the light heavyweight division. In his time away from the championship, he has added several notches to his belt, which includes wins over: Wanderlei Silva (twice), Chuck Liddell, and Yushin Okami. Yet, even in his losses, he always gave the fans what they wanted to see, a good fight.
Franklin dazzled legions of fans with his quick hands and slick submissions, but after last weekend’s vicious knockout loss to the surging Cung Le at UFC Macao, one wonders how much the 38-year old veteran has left in the tank. We have long known that his latest run at Middleweight was a championship or bust campaign. So, with this enormous setback, the question becomes, have we seen the last of Rich Franklin?