Rich Franklin is caught in an awkward limbo. One of the best fighters in the world at middleweight, Franklin has lost twice (and badly) to middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. Still in his fighting prime, Franklin wasn’t, and isn’t, content to simply be a gatekeeper for Silva’s title.
In 2008, Franklin moved to light heavyweight to to try his hand against slightly bigger, but hopefully less skilled, opponents. At least that was his intention. Instead he’s been a guinea pig for fighters looking to move between the two weight classes. Earlier this year he beat Wanderlei Silva at a catchweight of 195 pounds. Now, he’s meeting Vitor Belfort in the middle as well, in between Belfort’s preferred 185 pounds and his own 205 pound class.
“Fighting at 195 it wasn’t my idea for this fight in particular,” Franklin said. “This is something that Vitor requested. And at this point in time I’m not in the title hunt at 205. Perhaps I will be at some point in time as long as I keep winning fights. But until then you know if the UFC has exciting fights for me at 195 pounds and fights that the fans want to see than I’m willing to drop and do what I need to do just to pull in good fights.”
These catchweight fights can’t help but hurt Franklin’s chances at light heavyweight. When it comes to fighting, size matters. If Franklin is going to be competitive, he can’t be a fighter capable of easily making 195 pounds. His major weakness is wrestling, and in a division filled with strong wrestlers, being a small light heavyweight isn’t going to cut it.
“I think what for me these are going to be tough match ups just for the simple fact that I’m not a big 205-pound fighter,” Franklin said. “And so a lot of these guys are taller than me, wider than me, longer than me. I’m going to deal with weight issues and strength issues, probably. So a lot of the match ups are going to ((inaudible)) but I’m willing to try to tackle them.”
Franklin’s only chance at another world title is to put on weight, not jiggly weight, but a slow and steady build of muscle. And this simply can’t happen if he has to be ready to drop down to 195 pounds on a matchmaker’s whim.
“Honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me,” Franklin said diplomatically. “I think at this point in time, I’m interested in putting on exciting fights for the fan. So if in the process of that whole thing if I continue doing the things that I need to do and winning fights and stuff like that, eventually I’ll make my way back to a title run. And you know if I can get back to the title run that would be a great Cinderella story for me before I retire…”
If Franklin beats Belfort, and he should, it’s time for him and his management to draw a firm line. He should only fight at 205 pounds going forward. It’s the only way to ensure success at the highest level of the sport.
UFC 103 airs Saturday night at 10 PM EST, only on PPV.