After Surgery, ‘Company Man’ Rich Franklin Struggles to Figure Where He Belongs
By Ben Fowlkes
Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin is just coming off successful shoulder surgery, but now comes the hard part, as he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.
Franklin, who said he was told that he wouldn’t even be able to run for three more weeks, is now wondering how he’s going to cope with the limited physical activity.
“I had surgery six days ago, and it’s already driving me crazy,” he said, adding that, at least for the moment, “rehab is my job.”
But Franklin, who said he’s hoping to return in late May or June of 2012, seems a tad unsure about where he fits in with the current UFC. The organization hasn’t seemed anxious to see him return to middleweight, and yet at 205 pounds he finds himself undersized on fight night, he told Helwani.
“If you look at the pictures of Forrest [Griffin] and I squaring off at the weigh-ins, we look almost the same size. And then if you look at the two of us squaring off in the middle of the Octagon, pre-fight, he outweighed me by probably about 25 pounds, and I’m going to run into this type of problem in the weight class. It’s just, the weight class is full of big guys.”
And yet, Franklin has continued to fight wherever the UFC wants him because, as he explained, “I’ve been quote-unquote the company man. There have been magazine articles written about me calling me that. …I’ve always been the guy that has taken whatever fight they’ve asked me to take.”
Which is why, Franklin said, he was none too pleased about hearing UFC president Dana White suggest in an interview with Helwani that he had purposely avoided a fight with Alexander Gustafsson as a replacement opponent for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 133.
According to Franklin, he found out exactly three weeks before his scheduled fight with Nogueira that the Brazilian was injured and the UFC wanted to move Gustafsson up to replace him.
“At the time I was like, well who is this guy? I don’t know. So my manager, Monte Cox, said Joe Silva’s going to send you over some tapes so you can at least see this guy and check it out. I said all right.”
The following afternoon, Franklin said, he told his manager he’d take the fight, even though “there was nothing really appealing about the fight, and I basically told my manager that.”
But, due to what Franklin described as a “communication breakdown” brought on by the stress of an injury-riddled fight card, the UFC opted instead to pull Franklin from the event altogether. By itself, it might not have been so bad, but Franklin was irked by the implication that he’d ducked a fighter like Gustafsson, he said.
“I listened to the interview that you did with Dana, and was a bit disappointed…I’ll be honest with you, I was a bit disappointed listening to that, because the tone of the interview between you and Dana almost sounded like that. I thought, first of all, I’ve never ducked any other opponent in my life.”
In fact, Franklin said, the only time he’s ever said no to the UFC was when he was asked to fight Reese Andy, who had recently been a training partner of his. Aside from that, he said, he always agreed to whatever the UFC offered, and at whatever weight, which is why “for that kind of stuff to come out and to question, I guess, my motives or my character or whatever, it was very upsetting to me.”
Following the UFC 133 incident, Franklin said he sat down with UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta to discuss the fallout from the situation and his feelings on White’s comments.
“That feeling of family, it’s dissipated a little bit,” Franklin said. “It’s not the same as it used to be when I first starting fighting for the UFC, and I basically told Lorenzo that. I said, ‘Hey, I feel like sometimes you guys don’t really have my back,’ and he told me that they’d been really busy with the FOX deal and all that kind of stuff.”
After that conversation, Franklin said, he and the UFC “were all on the same page,” and there was even talk of a bout with Tito Ortiz in November, which Franklin said he was “definitely open to and interested in.”
Unfortunately, his shoulder surgery scuttled those hopes, leaving him focused only on rehab and getting back to fighting shape for now. As for the weight class he’ll compete in and the opponent he might face when he returns, Franklin said he’s content to leave that up to the UFC.
“If the UFC said something to me about fighting at middleweight again, I’d be great with that,” he said, though he clarified that he’s not about to request anything specific along those lines. “…If they’re not going to let me work toward a title, in the meantime as long as I can just work at putting on exciting fights and that stuff, then I’m good with doing that.”
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