Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009 | midnight
- Vitor Belfort is back, TKOs Rich Franklin in first round
- UFC 103 Slideshow
- Vitor Belfort puts on phenomenal performance in UFC return
- White not impressed with Mayweather’s comeback victory
- Breaking down UFC 103: Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort
- Vitor Belfort, Efrain Escudero miss mark at UFC 103 weigh-ins
- UFC 103: Breakdown and Picks
- Naturally UFC 103 event is larger in Lonestar State
- Fireside chat with Dana White
- Video: The Return of "The Phenom"
- Bonus machine Tyson Griffin not worried about cash award in bout with Hermes Franca
- Frank Trigg eyeing one last title run
- Rich Franklin not thinking about title shots
- Mirko Filipovic back for good
- Video: UFC 103: Prepare for the Unexpected
- Complete UFC 103 coverage
DALLAS — Too bad they tore the top off of Reunion Arena here in Big D. Dallas’ long home for sporting events and rock concerts would have been the perfect setting for the reunion story lines that are sprinkled across the UFC 103 card tonight.
Headliner Rich Franklin is making his first appearance on U.S. soil in more than a year as the former middleweight champ takes on Vitor Belfort at the state-of-the-art American Airlines Center instead of the old building built in 1980.
“Thanks to Dana (UFC President Dana White) for putting on this show here in Texas,” said the Cincinnati native Franklin, who has fought four of his last six bouts outside the states.
“The UFC is doing such a job with expanding that it's nearly impossible to not fight in a new city. I do feel like they kind of put me in that ambassador position, but I don't mind doing it at all."
The 32-year-old Belfort, the one-time UFC light heavyweight champ, is reuniting with the promotion where he launched his career at the age of 19 and quickly became a star.
“I'm excited to be back in the organization," said Belfort, who had been away from the UFC for four and a half years.
"At the beginning, it was smaller, and now it's so huge. There's so many opportunities for everybody, so I'm really excited to be fighting the best fighters in the world."
While this bout is set at a catchweight of 195 pounds, the match is more of a showcase for both fighters to launch the next stage of their careers.
A win by the 34-year-old Franklin (27-4 overall record, one No Contest) could be just the spark he needs to get going in the ultra-competitive 205-pound division.
“Rich Franklin, should he beat Vitor Belfort on Saturday night, he’s looking to break into the Top 5 at 205 pounds,” said White.
More than even that, Franklin’s willingness to take a fight against whomever at anytime has made him a favorite of the UFC boss.
“There’s certain guys that I point to that have helped build this company. He’s always been there when I needed him. I call him to say I need you to fight and he does,” White said.
The revamped Belfort, who hasn’t lost since a setback to Dan Henderson in October of 2006, is looking to show the skills that earned him the nickname of “The Phenom” and a title victory over the legendary Randy Couture.
“Should Vitor Belfort win this fight against Rich Franklin, he’s looking to go after Anderson Silva, which I think is very a interesting match-up,” White said of Belfort, who defeated Matt Lindland in just 37 seconds in his last fight in Affliction.
Either way, White knows the well-rounded styles of both fighters could make this reunion match an instant classic.
“The thing I love about this fight is that both guys like to stand up and bang,” he said with a smile. “It’s very interesting and a very hard fight to pick.”
Like White said, both men aren’t afraid to stand and engage.
Belfort’s lighting quick hands provide knockout potential at anytime.
But the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialist is also very comfortable on the ground.
“The thing with Vitor, you never know what to expect. Is the old Belfort gonna be here, where he comes out with guns a blazing like he did against Lindland and a bunch of other people,” White said.
“But we’ve seen the other Vitor, too, who is laid back and can’t get off shots and gun-shy. If he’s that Vitor, he’ll get out-worked by Rich Franklin.”
While Franklin might not have quite as big a name as some of the other UFC stars, a quick check of his impressive resume makes up for any lack of attention.
The former school teacher’s only four losses have come at the hands of UFC pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva, unbeaten light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida and former PRIDE champ Dan Henderson.
Last Time Out:
Rich Franlin: defeated Wanderlei Silva by unanimous decision in June.
Vitor Belfort: defeated Matt Lindland by first-round knockout in January in Affliction’s Day of Reckoning.
The Lines: Rich Franklin: -130 Vitor Belfort: Even.
Rich Franklin: On fighting a legend like Belfort: "I don't think that I could be fighting a nicer guy than Vitor. But I don't think that's going to make him hesitate from throwing punches or hitting me in the face on Saturday.”
Vitor Belfort: On putting in the work to become a champ again: “If you want to buy the gold, you've got to buy the field. That’s hard work. I’m buying the field and I want to get the gold on Saturday."
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.