Former UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin, has always been portrayed as the UFC's ultimate company man. Whether it's moving between weight classes to make way for younger, more talented fighters, fighting at catch-weights in bouts with no divisional relevance, or taking part in countless media opportunities, press tours, and promotional activities, "Ace" has always gone above and beyond to do whatever Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, or Joe Silva ask of him. This is partly because Franklin is one of the UFC's most well-spoken and highly educated fighters, and also because he has a large fan-base and appeal as the all-American good-guy fighter who's rarely in a boring fight.
Now, it seems that Franklin isn't so willing to be the company man any more and is also a little uneasy about his relationship with the UFC brass. In an interview on The MMA Hour yesterday, Franklin opened up about what he thinks about being the "company man", and how his relationship with Dana White has gone downhill in recent months, particularly after he believed he was accused of "ducking" Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133:
According to Franklin, he found out exactly three weeks before his scheduled fight with Nogueira that the Brazilian was injured and the UFC wanted to move Gustafsson up to replace him.
"At the time I was like, well who is this guy? I don't know. So my manager, Monte Cox, said Joe Silva's going to send you over some tapes so you can at least see this guy and check it out. I said all right."
The following afternoon, Franklin said, he told his manager he'd take the fight, even though "there was nothing really appealing about the fight, and I basically told my manager that."
But, due to what Franklin described as a "communication breakdown" brought on by the stress of an injury-riddled fight card, the UFC opted instead to pull Franklin from the event altogether.
"I listened to the interview that you did with Dana, and was a bit disappointed...I'll be honest with you, I was a bit disappointed listening to that, because the tone of the interview between you and Dana almost sounded like that. I thought, first of all, I've never ducked any other opponent in my life. For that kind of stuff to come out and to question, I guess, my motives or my character or whatever, it was very upsetting to me."
"That feeling of family, it's dissipated a little bit," Franklin said. "It's not the same as it used to be when I first starting fighting for the UFC, and I basically told Lorenzo 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."
This seems to be the first time that Franklin has publicly stated any frustration or disapproval with the way the UFC is treating him, although it might just be a momentary outburst, as toward the end of the interview, he goes right back into his typical role:
"If the UFC said something to me about fighting at middleweight again, I'd be great with that," he said, though he clarified that he's not about to request anything specific along those lines. "...If they're not going to let me work toward a title, in the meantime as long as I can just work at putting on exciting fights and that stuff, then I'm good with doing that."
Editorial Note by Brent Brookhouse: One quote that followed Rich's discussion about the UFC not having his back was omitted that alters the story and explains the relationship having been repaired with the UFC. For the sake of being clear, it sounds like after the discussion with Lorenzo, everything was sorted out:
Franklin said, he and the UFC "were all on the same page," and there was even talk of a bout with Tito Ortiz in November, which Franklin said he was "definitely open to and interested in."