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Naturally UFC 103 event is larger in Lonestar State

Promotion hosts record 13 fights Saturday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas

UFC 103 Take 5

Andy Samuelson

Former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin poses with former UFC light heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort Thursday afternoon after a press conference at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. The veteran fighters square off in the main event of UFC 103 on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.

The Return of "the Phenom"

Vitor Belfort makes his return to the UFC Saturday night to face Rich Franklin in the main event of UFC 103 in Dallas.

UFC 103: Prepare for the Unexpected

Local fighters Frank Trigg and Martin Kampmann talk about their upcoming fights at UFC 103. Trigg returns to the Octagon to face Josh Koscheck, while Kampmann fights Paul Daly.

UFC 103

  • What: UFC’s first show in Dallas, Texas
  • Main Event: Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort; co-main event: Junior Dos Santos vs. Mirko Crop Cop
  • When: Saturday; broadcast begins at 5 p.m. PT
  • Where: American Airlines Center
  • On TV: Pay-per-view (Broadcast begins at 7 PT/Prelims airing live on Spike TV Cox Cable Ch. 29)

You know the saying: “Everything is bigger in Texas.”

So apparently does the UFC. The world’s premier mixed martial arts organization decided their second show in the Lone Star state would feature a promotion record 13 fights.

“It’s always great to have UFC back in Texas and we know they’re gonna put on one hell of a good show,” Dickie Cole, the state’s combative sport program manager, said in a deep Texas twang during Thursday’s UFC 103 news conference in Dallas.

“It’s gonna be a great fight card. We’re gonna start early and end late.”

Here’s how the card breaks down:

1. The headliners

Rich Franklin was supposed to headline the show at American Airlines Center with Dan Henderson in a rematch of their January bout, which Franklin lost by split decision.

The fans said they didn’t want to see such a quick replay, UFC President Dana White said, and he obliged, signing former Affliction fighter and early UFC star Vitor Belfort for the main event set at a catchweight of 195 pounds.

“I want to thank Dana and the Fertitta brothers (co-owners Lorenzo and Frank) for the chance to get back in the UFC. I’m a totally different person now,” said the 32-year-old Belfort, who sports a career MMA record of 18-8.

Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Franklin, whose only losses in the UFC are the narrow decision to Henderson, a setback to 205-pound champ Lyoto Machida and two losses to pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva, has his eyes on getting back in the middleweight title hunt, and quite thankful for having a fight back on U.S. soil.

“Thanks to Dana for putting on this show here in Texas,” said the Cincinnati native, who has fought four of his last six bouts outside the states.

2. Welcome back

Belfort isn’t the only fighter returning to his UFC roots this Saturday. So too is former TV analyst for PRIDE Fighting Championship Frank Trigg.

Trigg (19-6 overall), who is perhaps best know to UFC fans for his epic fight for the welterweight title against Matt Hughes at UFC 52, takes on former collegiate wrestling standout Josh Koscheck.

“Let’s be honest: This is a title run,” said the 37-year-old Trigg. “I don’t have much time left. Age and wisdom can only take you so far before age catches up to you. I want to go up at least having made the attempt of being one of the best guys out there.”

3. Best of the best

Proving he was the welterweight division’s top contender was Las Vegas-based fighter Martin Kampmann’s motivation for original opponent Mike Swick.

But Swick had to cancel the bout because of a concussion and now the Danish Kampmann has to be careful to avoid a letdown against English fighter Paul Daley.

4. Fight of the Night alert

In five of his eight UFC bouts Xtreme Couture’s Tyson Griffin has left the Octagon with a nice chunk of change in his pocket because his electrifying battles earned him $30,000 to $65,000 in bonus money.

While Griffin loves the extra cash, he insists his main objective is to finish fights early. But considering his opponent for Saturday is the equally tough Hermes Franca, the two might want to clear some space in their wallets.

“I definitely pride myself on being an entertaining fighter. But I don’t make a point to put on an entertaining fight or make sure it goes the distance,” Griffin says with a laugh. “I guess it just happens to be my style of fighting and the matchups the UFC has put together.

“The extra money sure doesn’t hurt.”

5. The fight outside the fights

While exciting bouts are scheduled for the Octagon in Dallas and the ring of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, an interesting side skirmish is taking place on television over where fight fans will decide to spend their pay-per-view money.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. returns to boxing for the first time in nearly two years when he takes on Juan Manuel Marquez. But one notable — if biased — boxing fan thinks that MMA will continue to be the cash cow, despite “Money Mayweather’s” comeback bout.

Then again the former boxing trainer, White, is admittedly biased.

“We’re on the same night, we’ll see what happens on Monday when they tally up the pay-per-views,” White said.

“But I don’t think us going the same night as boxing is a good thing. I think it sucks.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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