Franca eyes return to MMA

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With former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk preparing for his return to active mixed martial arts competition having fulfilled his suspension after a positive drug test stemming from his successful title defense over Hermes Franca last July, it harkens wonder to what the other half of that title match is doing.

Franca, who is still currently on suspension until early July, had built up tremendous momentum heading into the fight with Sherk, having won eight fights in a row prior to the title showdown.

It appeared he could have more than a chance to fulfill his goal of Ultimate Fighting Championship champion, but was denied, losing a five-round unanimous decision to Sherk.

Shortly after the fight it was revealed that both Franca and Sherk had tested positive for steroids. Unlike Sherk, however, Franca did not deny his usage of performance enhancing drugs, thus inciting a year-long suspension.

Since then Franca has left the team he was with prior to that fight, The Armory, and has kept busy with other things in anticipation of a return to action within the coming months.

"I've been teaching seminars," said the Brazilian born fighter. "I'm the head coach at Premier Martial Arts, which is all over the United States, like 50 or 60 academies, and some in Canada.

"I'm doing the jiu-jitsu program over there. So I've been really busy doing a seminar almost every week for two or three months."

Specifically Franca is still based in Florida, where he is expanding upon his own jiu-jitsu system.

"I'm at the academy in West Palms with two affiliations: one in Boca Raton and one in Jupiter," he commented. "Outside of Florida, I have North and South Carolina that I'm teaching or I have some guys, instructors teaching other Hermes Franca (systems)."

As Franca explains, his split from The Armory was due to his wish to have the freedom to market his style of jiu-jitsu on his own terms.

"I had always worked for somebody, but now I want to build my name," he stated.

"I have a big name, a strong name, and so that's what I want to do, work on my Brazilian jiu-jitsu program, work on my creations and keep fighting. I want to work for myself."

With his suspension ending on July 5, Franca is chomping at the bit to return to action, and hopes to do so as soon as he becomes eligible.

"I'm hungry. Even though I'm busy right now, I want to fight soon," he exclaimed. "I hope to fight in July, but if not, I'm going to keep busy and wait for my next fight.

"I have a big name, I've fought very much and a lot of guys know me, and a lot of shows are looking for fighters. EliteXC, Affliction, the UWC, some big shows, and a lot of guys are showing interest in me. I'm just waiting for my moment right now."

Having a year off to focus on himself, Franca feels there's far more than a whisper's chance that he'll be much improved when he does return to fighting.

"I think the fans are going to see much, much better (performances) from me," he stated.

"(Other fighters train) a few weeks before fights, and I never did. I am always teaching and training fighters. I'm going to let my instructors teach at my affiliations academies, and I'm going to camp for myself for six weeks or seven weeks just training. That's what I'm going to do, I'm going to do things like a professional, and so I'm going to come back stronger than ever."

When the subject of Sean Sherk's impending UFC title match-up with current 155-pound king B.J. Penn was brought up, Franca was more than willing to give his unbiased thoughts on the fight.

"Sean Sherk is so smart; he's very professional and will come back strong," he said. "He's training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts to plug B.J.'s game, and will come with a good game plan; but B.J. has good skills. He's talented.

"I was training with (B.J.) and the kid has a lot of talent, a lot of heart, and I can say the kid is born to fight. I think B.J. is going to win, that's my opinion, but I hope it is going to be a great fight."

As for where Franca feels he will fit into the lightweight division when he returns, "I think I'm still like A-level class.

"The only people that are happy to not see Hermes Franca fighting is people in my weight division. I'm still a contender in any organization I'm in, and I'm going to be a champion. I know myself. I know how good I am. If I train hard I can be the best of the best."

Keeping himself busy with business ventures, Franca looks to a near future that will have him returning to his true passion in fighting, regaining lost momentum and placing himself back amongst the pantheon of the sport's premier performers.

"I would really like to say to my fans," closed out Franca, "I gained more fans after my fight with Sean Sherk, and everybody is really, really excited to see me fight again.

"I know who my real fans are now. I want to say thank you to the sport, my family, Premier Martial Arts and my affiliations academies and Team Hermes Franca."