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Rich "Ace" Franklin recently spoke with MMAWeekly about the progress of his injuries, mental toughness in the fight game, and the UFC's middleweight division...

MMAWeekly: It’s been a while. How is your health?

Rich Franklin: Everything is good, man... I’m able to do everything except spar at this point. I just can’t punch with my hands, but I can roll and everything else. My first day of actually rolling with my training partners and stuff... accidental knee to my left eyebrow and got seven stitches.

MMAWeekly: Wow. That’s not good.

Franklin: I guess God is telling me that I need more time off.

MMAWeekly: Could be. It could be. It was interesting, for those people in Canada that watch The Fight Network; they get to see our post-fight coverage, and I remember talking with you right after and seeing your hand. It looked like you had a baseball on top of your hand. You were icing both hands. You had your ankle iced up as well. When I talked to you, you said you think you may have torn ligaments during the Evan Tanner fight...

Franklin: Yeah. I think I injured my ankle during the Tanner fight. The ligaments were partially torn, and I had never rehabilitated it properly. I had the same problem after that fight... because I went immediately from the fight [with Evan Tanner in June 2005] to coaching TUF 2... and the first week or week and a half of coaching the show, I was on crutches. I was on crutches for the first, like, three or four days. We did some shots where we would put me into position, and they’d get rid of the crutches so you couldn’t tell I was on crutches.

MMAWeekly: Leading up to the Loiseau fight, how much pain were you in, in that fight just with the ankle?

Franklin: Well, not really. What happened was, I threw a kick to the body at one point, and he turned, and I caught his elbow right there, where the foot ties in with the leg. It hurt. I don’t know if it, like, shifts the foot or what it does to it, but I could tell with what was hurting... not so much for movement, but it really made a difference with the power of my kicks. It made me more tentative, and I think that’s part of the reason, maybe, of why I got caught in the third round with that hook.

MMAWeekly: You broke your hand... did you say in the first round with Loiseau?

Franklin: The second round.

MMAWeekly: The second round, you break your hand. Did you know it was broken then?

Franklin: Yeah, I knew. I hit him and I remember, at some point in the fight, I was stepping back, like squeezing my hand trying to make a fist with it. Something wasn’t right. After throwing a couple more punches, I could tell by the pain that it was definitely broken. I could feel the bone, actually, rubbing back and forth in my hand every time I would hit with it or something. I went back to my corner at the end of the second round and said, "Hey, I broke my left hand," and they advised me accordingly.

MMAWeekly: How did you change your game plan?

Franklin: Really, I didn’t.

MMAWeekly: It didn’t look like it.

Franklin: Yeah. You could see me in the later rounds working for the takedown more and looking for more ground control, but I tried following the same game plan. It was difficult because I couldn’t put the same amount of heat on my left cross that I normally would be able to, and that’s my power hand because I’m a southpaw.

MMAWeekly: Incredible stuff, dude. What goes on mentally with you? How do you do that? How do you block out, "Oh yeah, I broke my hand and my ankle is jacked, but I’ll just block that out." How do you do that?

Franklin: I don’t know. Quitting is never an option for me. I swear, if you get me in that ring, you’re going to have to damn near kill me just to get me to quit the fight. If that’s not an option, then the only thing you can do is continue to move forward by any means necessary. It’s not like at any point in the fight I said, "Oh no, my hand is broken now... I’m at a disadvantage, but I’ll push forward and make this mental tough decision" or anything... quit is just not a part of me.

MMAWeekly: You’re able to flip the switch. Where do you take yourself... we talked about the mental game, where do you take yourself mentally before each fight? Do you think about a deep, dark place, or what do you do mentally to get ready for a fight?

Franklin: I think mentally I prepare like the week out of the fight. All those seven or eight weeks of preparation I do getting ready for the fight is what mentally prepared me. By the time that week comes, I’ve put in so much work. I’ve put so much work into preparing for that fight that I’ll be damned before I’ll let someone take that victory from me, and that’s how I feel about it. There’s nothing for me that I have to do to put myself in a deep, dark corner, or make myself angry, or think about something that happened to me in my childhood. It’s just that I’ve put the work in, and I’m not going to let anybody take it away.

MMAWeekly: You hurt yourself, not only in training, but you hurt yourself pretty bad when you were in actual competition. You were going through the rehab, you got another injury again with the stitches in your eyebrow... is this becoming a pattern because of how hard you train? Are you getting injured a little bit more now, or is it just a rhythm of what is going on in your life right now? Is this something that is going to continue to happen because of how hard you train?

Franklin: I just think this is an example of, "When it rains, it pours." The stitches that I got in my eyebrow the other day was just a fluke accident. One of the guys I was rolling with was standing for an armbar, and he just spun around. His knee just came around... or moving for a triangle or something... and his knee came up and just barely hit me in the eyebrow. It just happened that it was his knee and my eyebrow where there is no padding, so there was just a little cut. So no, I don’t think so. I take good care of myself, and I’m doing tons of rehab and going to the chiropractor, and doing some stem units and some ultrasound on my back and joints and all that kind of stuff. I’m taking really good care of myself otherwise, and I think that is what keeps the major injuries away from me.

MMAWeekly: With the injuries, are you still shooting for October?

Franklin: That’s what I’m hoping for. I have no clearance from anybody, but I believe that my body will be ready to go by October. Everything will be healed up well enough. We took some follow up X-rays and we sent them out to Dr. Sanders, the gentleman who did the surgery out in Las Vegas. He’s the one that cleared me to lift and roll and all of that stuff... we're going to do another set of X-rays soon, just to see how the hand is healing. I’m hoping to eventually get cleared to start hitting the heavy bags or something like that.

MMAWeekly: With the recent signing of Anderson Silva, and Nathan Marquardt last year, who do you see as the top contenders for the belt in your opinion?

Franklin: I think, right now, the four strongest contenders in the weight class would be Anderson Silva, Marquardt, Mike Swick, and Chris Leben, and not necessarily in the order that I named them in... but they are the four strongest competitors at 185 pounds, and I believe any one of those four would possibly be fighting for the title sometime in the next year. I don’t know. It depends on who the UFC puts me against.

MMAWeekly: Anderson Silva versus Chris Leben has been signed. Who do you favor in that fight?

Franklin: I don’t know... I was sitting and thinking about it earlier, and I was thinking, "Wow, what a great fight." [Anderson Silva] is so technical on his feet, but Leben has a chin of granite. I don’t know. That is going to be a good match-up.

MMAWeekly: That’s a great fight, and I look forward to it. What do you think of Nate Marquardt?

Franklin: I think he’s a great fighter. He’s well-rounded. He’s tough on his feet, tough on the ground. He’s the kind of fighter that poses the same threat that I do. If I go out there and try to box with him and that’s not working for me, and I take him to the ground, the fight is going to be just as tough there. I think he and I would definitely be a good match-up.

MMAWeekly: Before the Loiseau fight, you were considered the number two middleweight in the world. After the Loiseau fight, you were considered number one by a lot of people on the Internet. How do you feel about being ranked number one?

Franklin: I’m not the kind of person who pays attention to rankings anyway. I’m the same fighter as I was before the Loiseau fight [and] as I was the day after the Loiseau fight. Rankings are opinions. I just hope that ten years after my career, maybe the opinions of the people out there will consider me the number one fighter at 185.

MMAWeekly: After you last fight with Loiseau, some people were talking on the forums about Loiseau, saying he wasn’t the same fighter because of his management problems before the fight. Did that in any way bother you... some people still not giving you respect yet, after all you’ve done?

Franklin: I really stay off the forums. The problem is, when you’re reading the forum, you’re only reading the opinion of twelve people out there maybe, and there are thousands of fans, so you can’t base the entire population’s opinion on those twelve people’s [opinions]. There are always going to be skeptics out there, and there are always going to be big fans. There will be people writing in the forums, saying I’m the greatest. There will be people writing in the forums, saying I’m overrated, and I really don’t much care. Loiseau didn’t appear to me to be the same fighter, but he came out in the first round the same fighter, and I believe I have this innate ability to take people out of their game plan, and that’s part of the reason why fighters don’t look the same when they fight me.

MMAWeekly: Yeah, no kidding. A lot of guys have looked that way. Matt Lindland has said in interviews that he felt like the UFC was protecting you. What’s your opinion on that?

Franklin: Well, I believe this... I believe at some point in time, Matt and I are going to end up squaring off in the Octagon. I will not get through my career without that happening, not that I care one way or the other. I also believe that if the UFC was protecting me, they would get rid of some of the 185-pound contenders that they have right now, because there’s some tough competition in the weight class.

MMAWeekly: Rich, it’s always fun to track you down.

Franklin: Not a problem. Before I hop off here, I just want to mention for everyone out there, they can go to my web site and check this out. I’m doing a cruise in February. If they’re interested in cruising with me, they can check out the information on it, RichFranklin.com.

MMAWeekly: So, RichFranklin.com... when do they have to get registered by?

Franklin: I’m not sure, but I would imagine that they wouldn’t have to do it until probably around November... probably, at the latest.

MMAWeekly: Where is the cruise going?

Franklin: Somewhere in the Caribbean. I don’t know. We’re going to do some fun stuff. We’re going to do, like, a seminar on the cruise. I don’t know... something like an organized volleyball tournament, or something more fun like that... a formal dinner. I’ll be in and out, mingling with everybody that is on the cruise.

MMAWeekly: Go to RichFranklin.com and they’ll hook you up with registration for the cruise. A pleasure, Rich. I’ll talk to you soon.

Franklin: Thanks. Bye.
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