Bloody Elbow Exclusive Interview: Rich Franklin Talks Injury, UFC Career, and His Future

Rich Franklin is one of the fighters that I've always wanted to speak with. He's never been in a boring fight and has been the guy that the UFC could always count on when they were in a tough spot. I had the chance to talk with him yesterday to talk about his injury and UFC career. With no return date set, Rich is focusing on other parts of his life to get some projects off the ground. You can follow him on twitter (@followace) and check out his website. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Bring us back a little bit. As I remember, the timeline for UFC 133 was that Rogerio dropped off because of an undisclosed injury..

Rich Franklin - He injured his shoulder or his arm or something like that. And I was made aware of that three weeks, exactly three Saturdays prior to the fight that he was pulling out of the fight.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - And then you got pulled from the card soon afterwards. There were rumors that you'd be fighting Alex Gustafsson and then that fight never came to fruition. What happened on your end, what was going on with you?

Rich Franklin - Okay, when I found out that Noguiera was hurt, there was discussion between my manager and the UFC about a possible fight with Alexander Gustafsson. I didn't know who he was at the time. So we acquired some tape and I basically said to my manager "let me talk to my coaches about this and I'll get back to you as soon as I can." It was a Saturday at about five in the evening. The UFC at the time had some tremendous pressure that they were up against because there were so many injuries on that card. They were looking for a quick answer. I needed some time to speak to my coaches before I could give them a yes or a no on the fight. Basically, I was able to speak with my coaches and at around two o'clock the following Sunday, I called my manager and said "here's the deal, I'll take the fight. It's not really an appealing fight to me. It's kind of a win-lose situation." Gustafsson is a really tough tough fight and nobody knew who he was because he was a prelim fighter up until that fight. Long story short, between the call my manager made to Joe Silva and the UFC and all the other parties involved, by the time the call got back to my manager, there was a communication breakdown and they decided to pull the fight off the table.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - So the shoulder surgery that you just had, was that for a nagging injury that's been going on through your career or did something happen after you got pulled from the card?

Rich Franklin - The shoulder injury is completely unrelated to the fight altogether. I was just in the gym training about a month later and I dislocated my shoulder. At first I thought I was gonna be okay because the shoulder that was dislocated popped back in the socket on it's own. Long story short, I ended up seeing a doctor and found out that I had torn my labrum and that they were gonna have to do surgery. In the meantime, during this whole situation after I had injured my shoulder, the UFC called me interested in a fight between Tito and I, looking for it in November. I basically told them that I injured myself, I don't know how serious it is, I'm getting an MRI, if it's not surgical then I'm all about the fight. If it is then we have to look at a different approach. I ended up having surgery. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - So right now, you're expected to make your return this summer. I imagine right now you're at the beginning stages of rehab?

Rich Franklin - Yeah I am. I had surgery two weeks ago. So 14 days ago I had surgery and the doctor I had was very progressive. He's very aggressive with rehab and all that stuff. He gave me the day of the surgery a list of exercises. So the day after surgery he was having me do rehab exercises on my own and then six days after surgery I did my first rehab session. I did three rehab sessions last week and I'll have three again this week.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - So for you, you're a notable gym rat, you love working out, you love working hard. Is this kind of like the worst case scenario for you, just not being able to work out?

Rich Franklin - The nice thing, is that I can do some things. The doctor told me when I went in for my post-op that I could get on a bicycle so I've been going to the gym and doing the bike. I did a 22 miler yesterday, I'm pushing myself pretty hard. There are things that I can do so I'm not completely immobilized but yeah it is difficult. I'm used to going into the gym and training and sparring and I can't do any of that stuff.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - So when you do make your return, do you want to return at 205? Do you feel more comfortable at 205 or 185?

Rich Franklin - It depends. I physically feel more comfortable at 205 not cutting any weight is a blessing. The trade off is that the guys that I'm fighting are a lot bigger than me. So comfort is kind of a relative thing I guess. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Alright, so you don't really know at this point? You're kinda waiting to figure out how the rehab goes and then go from there?

Rich Franklin - Yeah, that summer return is what I'm hoping for. Last May, early June. We have to see how the rehab goes and I can be a little bit flexible based on those things. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Kinda changing gears. One of your good friends Matt Hughes, you both have this reputation as being "Mr. Dependable". You're always willing to step up when they need somebody to step up. Looking back on your career, do you believe you may have been better served if you had been more selective as opposed to being the guy that they could always count on?

Rich Franklin - In a couple situations I'm sure there were situations in my career where I took some fights that I shouldn't have but it's not the way I operate. I've turned one fight down in my career and that was when I fought Matt Hammil. Prior to Matt Hammil they offered me Reese Andy and I was using Reese as a training partner up in Seattle and basically when they offered me that fight I said "I can't, I've been training with this guy for the past six months". That's the only fight I've ever turned down and they found a replacement who was a similar opponent. There have been times in my career where I've been sick and I probably should have pulled out of fights or took fights when I shouldn't have and all these kinds of things. That is what it is. Those are decisions I've made. I don't regret any of them.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now speaking of Matt Hammil, you guys are Ohio Natives and I believe friends to a certain extent as well. You're starring as the coach in the upcoming movie about his life. What was that experience like?

Rich Franklin - It was kind of weird actually because the Hammil movie approached me shortly after Matt and I fought. Although Matt and I are friends, it was kind of weird in that time where we had just fought and they came to me and said "hey, we'd like for you to be in the movie" and I thought "really?" I was about to get ready for another fight so we were looking at how they were gonna cast me in the movie. My time was limited. They ended up casting me as I guess a nemesis in the movie as the Purdue wrestling coach who cut him from the wrestling team before he transfers to RIT. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - You're pretty much one of the first fighters and also one of the only fighters to find success with starting their own clothing company. What do you think made that possible and made you different with American Fighters than the guys who started a company and it failed or they had to give up on it?

Rich Franklin - One thing is just persistence int his business. Myself and Jeff Adler started American Fighter on an idea of doing it and it kind of built from there. I stuck by this brand even when I was being offered good sponsorship and endorsement money from other clothing brands. I passed up a lot of money in my career on it. And we did somethings where we were trying to co-brand with other brands and it just wasn't working for us. And finally we met up with Affliction and Affliction is kind of taking over the reigns of the company which is good for us because quite honestly we're just a small business here in Cincinnati. We don't have the contacts that we need to have in order to make this business grow out of internet sales off a website. Since the deal with Affliction, we've gotten into The Buckle in the malls and it should be this last quarter of this fiscal year, we should be in Bloomingdales and Macy's who all have verified purchase orders. It should be great for us because of the wintertime and Christmas. So right now, I'm starting to see the fruits of my labor with this company. The next six months should determine whether or not it was worth it or not.

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - You also have the movie American Fighter, which is in the beginning stages. How did that come about? Who approached you about doing a biopic on your life?

Rich Franklin - Yeah, oddly enough talking about American Fighter the clothing brand, I'm assuming that's what they're calling the movie. We met with a gentleman who expressed an interest, someone by the name of Eric Eisner. He expressed an interest about doing a life-rights movie about me. So we went through the steps for him to acquire the rights. At this stage in the game, I've met with the writer. He came into the Cincinnati area for four or five days to spend some time with me and my training partners. He interviewed a few of my friends and family members. And I took him to a few of the places I'd go when I was growing up so he could get a feel for my life prior to fighting. They're at the point now where they're writing a script. I'm not sure how the whole movie process works with what unfolds next but they have things like casting and preproduction and production and post. So I wouldn't look for this to come out in 2012. There's too much work to be done between now and then. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Some people noticed that the main character in Warrior, there were a lot of similarities between you and that character. They're both teachers. They're both UFC fighters. Is that something that you noticed as well? 

Rich Franklin - I haven't actually seen the movie but I know that a lot of my friends have called me to find out if I got royalties for the movie because it resembled my life so much. It has nothing to do with me. It's just a coincidence. I don't know if the writers of the script a couple years ago decided to intertwine a story like mine and embellish it a little bit or what the deal was but that had absolutely nothing to do with me. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Not only do you have the clothing brand American Fighter, not only is there a movie coming out called American Fighter, but you also had a reality show you were developing called American Fighter. What happened with that? Is the project still on the table or has that passed?

Rich Franklin - It is and it's not on the table. The funny thing about reality TV is that you kind of throw an idea out there and then things start to morph a little bit and things change. I should be headed out to L.A. next month to meet with the production company that we met with one other time about picking up a reality show that would involve me. The show's changed concepts. The original idea of American Fighter was people working through adversity. It'll keep a similar concept but I'm just not sure about the title. Nothing's 100% on that, we don't have a signed deal or anything. Anything can happen between now and when our names are put on the dotted line. 

Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - For you, you've been fighting for an incredibly long time. You've been UFC champion. You've defended your belt which very few people have done. When everything's all said and done, I guess the first question is: how do you want people to remember Rich Franklin the fighter? And I guess the follow up is: what do you want to do after your fight career?

Rich Franklin - As far as my legacy goes, I think that my legacy is kind of taking shape. I think people will remember me as a fighter who was tough as nails. My past performances and future performances will take care of that, I'm not really concerned how people will remember me because one thing I've learned is that if you go on the internet there's gonna be people who will love you forever no matter how many fights you win or lose and there's gonna be people who will hate you forever. The future? I've done some work with films. I'm assuming that I'll do some more film work in the future and nutrition has been a passion of mine and we're starting to go that direction. We're starting a nutritional blog on my website. I will in some way shape or form be involved in that.

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