UFC star Rich Franklin is back in action this Saturday at UFC 88 in Atlanta and will be moving up a weight class. Franklin will be facing a fellow Cincinnatian in light heavyweight Matt Hamill. I recently spoke with Franklin about the match and his career.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Why the move up to 205?
Rich Franklin: I was talking to the UFC after the second [Anderson] Silva loss and they encouraged me to move up to 205. They told me my position there would be more appealing to them from a business perspective. They werenít interested in a third match between me and Silva and they didnít want me fighting contenders because I could eliminate possible title fights, so I was stuck in that I was going to be fighting people on the back end of their losses to Silva and I didnít care for that gatekeeper position. After the Travis Lutter fight, I said I would try my hand at 205 again.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Whatís the toughest part of the transition in weight classes?
Rich Franklin: I think thatís a question better suited for September 7, but me giving up some pounds there is quite the adjustment. If Iím carrying an extra 20 pounds in this fight and it goes the full 15 minutes, that takes a toll on conditioning.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think about Matt Hamill?
Rich Franklin: Heís looked great, his success doesnít surprise me at all. Mattís an accomplished wrestler and a competitor. The first time I met him it was before he was doing MMA and I said when youíre done wrestling and all that -- he was making run for Athens games -- you ought to give MMA a thought because you could be good at it ... and before I knew it he was in The Ultimate Fighter and his only loss is a controversial one. Heís looked strong.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What would be your ideal fight?
Rich Franklin: I donít know, it doesnít really matter to me, Iím really just all about competing and having fun, doing it and putting on good fights for the fans. Iím one of those guys where if fans said ďweíd love to see Rich Franklin fight so and soĒ Iíd be in to doing that.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What part of the sport's growth has you the most excited?
Rich Franklin: I would guess the international growth at this point. The international growth the UFC is experiencing is showing how solid the future is going to be for this sport. So thatís great for guys like myself, who 10 years from now, I won't be fighting anymore and having a job within the MMA profession will be a possibility, but itís also exciting for up-and-coming athletes.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception casual sports fans have about MMA?
Rich Franklin: Itís that there are no rules. Itís the funniest thing I hear people talk about. People say, ďIíve seen that you fight in cage and thereís no rules,Ē and Iím sitting there [thinking] ďyeah, exactly.Ē Quite frankly, the rule book for this sport is complex, more so than for most sports probably.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What is one thing you would want people to know about you?
Rich Franklin: I just think that people see the TV persona thatís developed and although Iím a lot like my TV persona, things get amplified and magnified so to speak, and all that stuff gets taken out of proportion. One aspect of your life seems to overwhelm public perception and they forget about other things. From what they read in newspapers they think they know you, but what it boils down to is they donít.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Have you ever had any weird requests from fans?
Rich Franklin: Yeah, requests like ďcan you shave your autograph into my back hairĒ or stuff like that, itís really not that bad though. I donít get, like, womenís panties in the mail or weird fan mail or anything. I have had threatening phone calls to my house on numerous occasions. People call to threaten to kill me or beat me up when Iím not looking. My wife has also had threatening phone calls, which is odd because Iím a fairly well-liked fighter, so its weird. Itís weird having that kind of stuff happen because I come from a normal small town here in Ohio and suddenly my life is blown up and Iím perceived to be way more important than I am.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Do people call you a lot like that?
Rich Franklin: Itís kind of out of the blue, it will be three or four in the morning. I had a string of these calls occur over a couple months where they came semi-frequently. Then when I was out of town my wife was getting them. I had a fan who one time did some research and got my home number and called my house. My wife picked up and he said ďThis is Bob, Iím calling Rich about an interview,Ē and she said, ďOK, who are you with?Ē He just said, ďOh, with no one, I just wanted to interview him.Ē
MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you have to contact the authorities when you get calls like that or do you just shrug them off?
Rich Franklin: At this point Iíve shrugged them off. It irritates me more than anything else. I donít know, I guess being a fighter you feel you can take care of yourself anyway, but itís never gotten to a point where I feel the need to call the police.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Looking on the upside of your fame, what are some of the cooler experiences youíve been able to have during your time as a fighter?
Rich Franklin:Thatís the thing with fame -- thereís the good side and the bad side. The bad side is when youíre out in public you get recognized, I couldnít go to a club down here in Cincinnati without expecting to take 100 pictures with people on phones so they can put that crap on MySpace. I understand that goes on when I go out. The cool side of it is Iíve been able to do a lot of things most people havenít. I got to go visit the troops in Iraq in 2006 and Iím getting ready to go back to the Middle East again. Iíve done tons of cool stuff around the military, like going on aircraft carriers and on a basic level I get invited to nice restaurants and people pay for dinner occasionally. You rarely have to wait in line for clubs and stuff like that. As youíre sitting there signing autographs in a club and by time you hit the 50th picture itís like ďat least we didnít have to wait in line for this place.Ē Your friends think its more cool than [I do] but it has some perks.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Does the fame ever feel surreal to you?
Rich Franklin: No, as far as Iím concerned, fame is a fickle thing. One minute people love you, the next they hate you. You always have loyal fans that think youíre the greatest thing since sliced bread, but really, 99 percent of my life Iím just your average guy. Iím sitting at my home today wondering if Iím going to have to cut my grass before the fight again. Iím not wanting to have to sit on my tractor for a couple hours in the sun doing it but thatís my typical life. Itís pretty normal and things will be more that way once Iím out of limelight and retire. For most part people will forget about you. I sign autographs not because it does anything for my ego but because the people that ask you for it wouldnít understand if you didnít sign it, and I want fans to have a good experience when they meet me.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Whatís the toughest part about being Rich Franklin?
Rich Franklin: Juggling all the aspects of my life. So many people want your time. Once you gain some notoriety or perceived importance everyone wants or needs you. You have appearances for this charity or sign autographs for this or make appearances at this fight. I need to go visit the troops and I need to train and I need to do PR
work for my fights but on top of everything else I need to make time for everything else -- family, friends and training and its difficult to juggle all of that.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you follow MMA much when you arenít training/fighting?
Rich Franklin:Yes and no. I watch the bigger fights but thereís so much stuff. MMA has exploded so much that you could sit down and you got your Versus channel and your HDnet and the UFC and the WEC and all these other shows and acronyms. If you DVRíd everything on MMA on TV you could watch fights nonstop in your waking hours. I spend so much time in the gym training that sometimes the last thing I want to do is come home and watch more fights. I do watch some fights and anytime thereís a WEC and Jens Pulver or one of my friends fighting Iíll catch the show, but Iím always definitely making sure I pay attention to UFC events and major fights. Honestly, my wife probably keeps up with that way more than I do.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like to do away from fighting?
Rich Franklin: Well, when Iím training, Iím an athlete and an athletic kind of guy so I like to do anything active, but I donít have the energy when Iím training. I will do things like play my drums, practice my Portuguese. I do often times spend a lot of time reading my bible and stuff like that.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Finally, what do you need to do against Hamill to be successful?
Rich Franklin: I think I gotta be quick on my feet. Iím giving up some weight so he might be giving up some speed. I need to use my footwork to confuse him and stick and move and stick and move and avoid takedowns. Once he does take me down, I canít let him lay on top of me. I need to stay active on the ground.