Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009 | 5 p.m.
Rich Franklin understands that he’ll never get a title shot at 195 pounds.
If he defeats Vitor Belfort later this month at their catchweight bout at UFC 103 in Dallas, it won’t place him any further or closer to a UFC championship than his previous win over Wanderlei Silva did at UFC 99, as no 195-pound division exists in the UFC.
According to the 34-year-old fighter, he’s OK with that.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me,” Franklin said. “I’m just excited about putting on interesting fights. If I continue to win fights in the process and eventually make my way back to a title run that would be a great Cinderella story for me.
“But until then, if I can keep putting on exciting fights for the fans, I’m happy doing that.”
Despite holding the reputation of an ambassador for the organization, Franklin’s career has seemed to reach a stalemate.
The Cincinnati-based fighter made two successful runs through the middleweight division, only to fall to champion Anderson Silva in the first and second rounds of two championship fights.
His transition to the 205-pound division has been a tentative one, as Franklin (27-4) admits that his body isn’t tailor made for fighting that heavy.
“There are going to be a lot of tough matchups for me just because of the simple fact I’m not a big 205-pounder,” Franklin said. “A lot of these guys are going to be taller, wider and longer than me. I’m going to have to deal with weight issues and probably strength issues.
“It’s going to be difficult for me, but I’m willing to try and tackle it.”
What Franklin says he’s not interested in doing is returning to the middleweight division if the fighter who defeated him twice gives up his belt.
Silva has fought his last two fights at light heavyweight and could conceivably vacate the belt or possibly lose it to a top contender, such as Dan Henderson or Nate Marquardt.
But even if his Kryptonite were to leave the 185-pound division, Franklin says he’d be weary of moving back down to win a championship that, at least in his mind, may come with an asterisk.
“The first thought that pops in my head if Anderson were to lose the title and I was to sneak down there and regain it — which is much more difficult than me just coming in and doing it — is that I’d almost feel like by doing so, I dodged a bullet,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if the fans would view it that way, but I wouldn’t want it to be seen in that way. I’ll entertain those kinds of thoughts when I cross those paths.”
Right now, the path that Franklin seems most interested in following is fighting anywhere at any weight, as long as it gives his fans a show.
That much was apparent after the way in which he handled the UFC changing his opponent for his upcoming fight at UFC 103.
Originally scheduled to face Henderson, a fighter he believes he defeated at UFC 93 despite taking the split decision loss, Franklin was gracious in accepting the switch to Belfort after it was obvious fans weren’t interested in seeing a second fight between the two middleweights.
“If I’m not fighting for the title, I’m primarily interested in putting on fights that fans want to see,” Franklin said. “When (UFC President) Dana White announced myself and Dan, the fan reaction was less than excited. Because of that, even though I would like to fight that fight again, I’m not going to push for it if people don’t want to see it.”
The fact that Franklin has found himself stuck between divisions hasn’t altered his reputation as a dangerous fighter, especially in the eyes of his next opponent.
Belfort, who expects to fight full-time in the middleweight division, says he’s excited to make his first appearance in the organization since 2005 against one of the most respected fighters in the UFC.
“I’m excited and I’m happy to be back with the UFC where I started a long time ago,” the Brazilian fighter said. “I’m fighting a legend in Rich Franklin, he’s a great champion and I’m honored to be fighting him.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].