Rich Franklin: “Past Victories and Losses Can’t Predict Future Victories and Losses. Wanderlei (Silva) and I Are Two Completely Different Fighters.”
By Tom Taylor
UFC 147, which goes down this Saturday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is not the card it once looked to be. Ravaged by a plague of injuries, the event’s main card has been shuffled and shuffled again. Initially, rival coaches of Brazil’s inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort, were set to square off in a rematch nearly fifteen years in the making. When a broken hand yanked Belfort from the showdown, Rich Franklin, who bested Silva three years ago at UFC 99, stepped up to the plate.
While UFC 147’s main even has been salvaged, the MMA community’s widespread dissatisfaction with the card as a whole is tangible. Silva, who lost his first fight with Franklin at UFC 99, explained during a media teleconference that he is not overly disappointed with his new opponent. He also is confident that he will have his rematch with Belfort down the road.
“I trained for Vitor and I trained specifically for him for two months. I am in really good condition. I know that someday we will fight,” Silva said. Silva also added that he believes his upcoming fight with Franklin has the potential to be just as exciting as a fight with Belfort.
“My fight against Franklin is a rematch just like Vitor. He’s a great fighter and we’ll give a great match for the fans here in Brazil,” he said.
He believes this fight has all the makings of a great success, given the name value he and Franklin posses.
“The fans understand that injuries happen. Franklin was the last champion before Anderson [Silva] and a lot of guys know him in Brazil. It will be a great success here in Brazil,” he said. “The UFC is a great success over here. Everyone loves [it] and everyone is talking about [it]. We will be number one on the list for the programs and other channels.
“Everyone is talking about boxing in America but everyone watches TUF here. All the gyms here have more members and we’ll have more events and more guys training. It’s great in Brazil,” he said, optimistic about the popularity of MMA in his native Brazil.
While Silva is content with his new opponent, he says he is not a fan of Belfort, and that he hopes for a rematch in the future.
“Some people are born to work together and I don’t like to work with Vitor. Soon, I hope, we will fight.”
On the other side of the cage will be Franklin, who did the UFC a serious favor by exiting from a bout with Cung Le and providing Silva with an opponent. While he may have earned some brownie points with the promotion, he will not be welcomed by the Brazilian fans that fill the arena at UFC 147.
Naturally, Franklin anticipates boos, but says he will not be affected by them.
“I’m going in there Saturday night against a tough opponent. Once you get in the cage, it’s like being on a stage and the audience is blacked out and all you can see is your opponent and all you can hear is your corner men,” Franklin said. “Everyone is always screaming and yelling, and it’s just a deeper tone. Maybe I’ll just pretend that they’re cheering anyways.”
Franklin has not fought since he lost to Forrest Griffin over a year ago at UFC 126. Despite his long layoff, he says he does not believe ring rust will be a factor.
“I’m not concerned about ring rust. I think ring rust is prominent in two types of fighters; young fighters and fighters who have taken significant time off. I was preparing for a fight last August and I did everything to get ready for that fight. To me, I don’t feel like I was out that long. Granted, I had the shoulder surgery in October but I recovered really well. My flexibility and mobility were ahead of the charts. I feel fine.”’
In addition to the potential drawbacks of a long layoff, Franklin will also be fighting far from home in Brazil. He says travel before a fight can be difficult.
“Sitting here in the hotel during fight week, you’re a little bit out of your rhythm. I’m in another country and fortunately I speak a little bit of Portuguese and I can navigate that way. If you couple that with not drinking a lot of water or eating, it is uncomfortable,” he said.
“There are very few people that have a better job than we do on this Earth. One of them is a rock star. We perform 2-3 times a year, but they can do it every weekend. I can’t imagine what that would be like.”
The bout between Franklin and Silva will be fought at a catch weight of 190 lbs, as Franklin fought his last fight at light heavyweight (205 lbs), and Silva at middleweight (185 lbs). When asked how much of a difference the five pounds between 190 lbs and 185 lbs could make, Franklin said the bout’s occurrence at a catch weight initially seemed imperative.
“The extra five pounds makes a huge difference. When the UFC called me, I was still in Singapore and I had the international travel to get home and then the international travel to get to this event. I wasn’t sure about my weight then and I wasn’t certain I could make 185. Now, I know 185 wouldn’t be a problem, but that that was my mindset. I’m actually coming into this fight lighter than past fights when I was dropping down to 185 before”
Regardless of the weight class in which their fight unfolds, Franklin believes both he and Silva have changed significantly since their initial encounter.
“Past victories and losses can’t predict future victories and losses. Wanderlei and I are two completely different fighters,” he said. “Fighters like Wanderlei, they’re smart. They don’t get to where they are by not making adjustments. If anything, I think this fight will be a tougher fight for me.”