6. Rich Franklin
While there are not as many tangible credentials to cite as part of Franklin’s resume for inclusion in the UFC Hall-of-Fame, history will remember Franklin as the first star of the middleweight division. In fact, it’s fair to compare Franklin’s career as a middleweight in the UFC with the Pride career of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Franklin didn’t face quite the same level of talent as did Nogueira, but the talent pool in the UFC’s middleweight division was not as prolific as that of Pride’s heavyweight division during the time of Franklin’s and Nogueira’s respective tenures. Like Nogueira at heavyweight, just one fighter besets Franklin’s legacy at middleweight. For Franklin, that man is Anderson Silva, whereas for Nogueira it was Fedor Emelianenko. In both cases, the superior fighters are among the best in the history of the sport.
Franklin was not the first middleweight champion in UFC history as Nogueira was the first Pride heavyweight champion, but he did establish the division as one capable of headlining a pay-per-view event, which had only occurred once prior to Franklin’s first title defense (Murilo Bustamante v. Matt Lindland, UFC 37). In all, Franklin headlined four UFC events as either the middleweight champion or the challenger for the title and one match, against Yushin Okami, to determine the top middleweight contender. Adding in his bouts at both light heavyweight and 195lbs. and Franklin’s total number of UFC events headlined rises to 10. That’s more than UFC Hall-of-Fame inductees Matt Hughes and Ken Shamrock (6 each) and Georges St. Pierre (7), equal to Anderson Silva and just one fewer than UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee Chuck Liddell.