Ah, 2005…a hot Kelly Clarkson ruled the radio, Christian Bale had just introduced the world to Batman’s strangely gruff voice, Kanye West was informing the world about George Bush’s stance on black people, and Rich Franklin was mowing through competition as one of the UFC’s brightest stars.
Then 2006 arrived and with it came a storm not named Katrina but rather Anderson Silva. In his ten fights since facing “The Spider” Franklin is 6-4 with wins over Jason MacDonald, Yushin Okami, Travis Lutter, Matt Hamill, Wanderlei Silva, and Chuck Liddell. He’s now 37-years old, has suffered a slew of injuries, and is out until mid-2012 while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Yet four years removed from his last relevant divisional win, with two fights to his name since 2009, Franklin is questioning his place in the organization.
“That feeling of family, it’s dissipated a little bit. It’s not the same as it used to be when I first starting fighting for the UFC, and I basically told Lorenzo Fertitta 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.” – Franklin / The MMA Hour
No, Rich, that sting isn’t a sense of betrayal on the part of your bosses. It’s, to quote Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction, “pride…f*cking with you.” The reality is the former champion, who at the end of the day only beat David Louseau and Nate Quarry while holding the belt, is at the end of the road career-wise.
He is Seinfeld and it’s as though the destruction he initially suffered at the hands (and feet/knees) of Silva was akin to Larry David’s departure. With another six-plus months on the sidelines to contemplate what’s next Franklin needs to decide if he wants to awkwardly leave the airwaves while still semi-entertaining or wait for a hook to appear from offstage to yank him out of the Octagon a la Liddell.
“Ace” is a great representative of MMA and could do wonders in terms of promoting the business behind the scenes. He needs to simply accept his days as an active competitor are limited and not concern himself with the lack of love he’s feeling from his employers. Face Tito Ortiz for a paycheck or even dip back down to 185 for a clash with Cung Le, then call it a career. Just don’t pretend as though there’s one final title-run in the tank or the need to fight the division’s top guys at the cost of tarnishing an otherwise fantastic reputation. It’s time for Franklin to work on taking care of that seemingly permanent black eye on his face before putting a few more proverbial ones on his record.
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PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR