I'm a big believer that Rich Franklin deserves more credit than he gets for the way he helped fighting establish itself as a sport in 2005.
He was never quite as popular as peers like Randy Couture, Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell, but as a coach on the second season of
The very things that kept him from connecting with the public the way some others have, his reserve and patent decency, also did a lot to counter perceived notions about what sort of person might want to fight in a cage for money. It's easy to hold up a guy with a Mohawk and a tattooed skull as an atavism, less so to do it to a quiet former math teacher from Ohio.
For the past several years, Franklin, working both at 205 and 195 pounds, has been exclusively fighting icons like Liddell and Wanderlei Silva in bouts that nearly always stay standing and are always intense. In his way, he defines what UFC wants in a fighter, a reliable man who takes the matches he's offered and goes for a finish every time out. Whatever else they have to worry about going into their Aug. 6 card in Philadelphia, which has now run through about 84 different main events, UFC toppers can be quite sure that Franklin will deliver in his bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and you can't ask much more of a fighter than that.
Recently I talked to Franklin, who is in training in Cincinnati, about his upcoming fight, the future of coaching, his views on retirement and various other subjects. What follows is a transcription of that conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
For me, for example, I'm doing a camp and I deal with probably -- well, I have five different coaches that I deal with. I have a jiu jitsu coach, a boxing coach, a kickboxing coach, a wrestling coach and a strength and conditioning coach. And I think that it hasn't been until maybe the last fight or two of my career that I've really, really gotten everybody, all these coaches on the same page.
When you look at coaches for a football team or something like that, even though you have head coaches and offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators, your D-line coach, your O-line coach and all this kind of stuff, these guys, they're always on the same page because they're all under one organization. And I think that's how this sport will end up developing.
Whether or not you're overtraining, undertraining, getting enough training. Because often times, as the athlete, you're the one making the call. And it's difficult to, a lot of times, make the calls on certain things, whether you should do another round or not, because you're the one doing this stuff. And that's why these professional sports organization have coaches.
The coaches come in, and they have a plan as to what's going to happen for the day before the day even begins. They know what they're going to work, how much of it they're going to do and so on and so forth. And so athletes across the board, I know they struggle with this, and it will get to the point where camps start to develop that way, but I can guarantee you that that kind of stuff is across the board.
There are some camps that have standout head coaches, like when I was up at AMC with Matt Hume, he's one that oversees all the training and all that kind of stuff. And you've got other guys like a Greg Jackson or a Mark DellaGrotte, and I'm sure that these guys run their camps all the same. But these head coaching jobs for MMA is something that's going to have to -- will, it will -- develop in the future for these athletes.
The generation of fighters that were before me were the jiu jitsu guys versus the kickboxers and so on and so forth. It was one art versus another, basically. And then you had a couple of shootfighters, but it was my generation of fighters where you really started seeing mixed martial arts become mixed martial arts. Perhaps my generation of fighters will produce the first true mixed martial arts coaches.
You take my last fight, even though I lost, the Forrest Griffin fight. Forrest was on top of me for the entire first round, and at no point in time was I in any kind of bad situation. As a matter of fact, I just tied him up looking for the stand up, because I didn't want to waste a whole bunch of energy since I have a guy that's probably 25 pounds heavier on top of me.
The ref didn't stand things up, and as things go, I ended up losing that first round, but the point is that that gives me the ability to throw punches and kicks and do whatever I want to do and not even have to worry about hitting the ground, necessarily, because I'm going to be in trouble with a good jiu jitsu guy. So it makes my stand up effective.
Sometimes -- I'm getting older -- sometimes that daily grind gets old. Yesterday is a perfect example. It was 99 degrees outside and we did our strength and conditioning outside. We were running some sprints with a weighted sled, and there were a couple of sprints where my heart rate went up into the 180s. And it was so hot, and it's humid here in Cincinnati, it was so hot and humid that when I was trying to get my breath back, there were a couple of times where it felt like I was going to pass out because the air wasn't there to breathe.
And sometimes when I'm driving to these workouts, I'm like, "Why do I do this to myself every day?" Because I love training, but training to that level, you know, it gets harder and harder to motivate yourself for that. But it's what I love doing. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do. So I do it.
I have a group of friends that are really pushing me and encouraging me to do public speaking. I've never been much of a public speaker, and that's not something that I have ever wanted to pursue, for sure, but it seems that I'm probably not going to get through my lifetime without at least doing a little bit of some public speaking. So we'll see.
Fortunately for me, I have a college degree and that helps me with my communication skills. I do fairly well in front of a camera, so I have some options for sure. I haven't really given thought as to if -- if, for example, if today I found out that I could never ever fight again, I'm not sure what I would do. I'm not sure what I would do tomorrow for a job.
Going to fan expos and going to fights and preparing for fights and all that kind of stuff and then building in time to film in between that, it can be very tricky to manage all that kind of stuff. We've had some opportunities in the past on things that we've had to basically pass up on due to some conflicts, schedules and all those kind of things, but yeah, there are possibilities for things that we have in the future.