Often times flying far under the radar, Rich Franklin’s accomplishments are almost hard to believe. The teacher-turned-MMA star has such an impeccable record that not only does he deserve one last run at the title, he’s UFC Hall of Fame worthy.

In “Ace’s” short-notice fight this past Saturday at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil against another legend, Wanderlei Silva, he fought back from a near knockout to defeat the Brazilian on his home turf. Near the end of the second round in Saturday’s main event, Franklin was bombarded with a flurry of punches. He survived the onslaught, but referee Mario Yamasaki nearly called the fight. Over the course of the next three rounds, the 37-year-old former math teacher fought back and earned a unanimous decision victory.

Filling in for Vitor Belfort, who was forced to withdraw from the bout with a broken hand, the fight—a 190-pound catchweight affair—came as Franklin was making his return to middleweight after spending the majority of the last four years at light heavyweight. In addition to being his second encounter with Silva, it was also his eleventh time squaring off against a current or former Pride or UFC champion.

The southpaw is a former champion himself, serving as the last man before Anderson Silva to wear the UFC middleweight strap around his waist. In his 19-fight UFC career, he’s fought the likes of both Anderson and Wanderlei Silva, Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, Ken Shamrock and he will ultimately go down as the man who ended Chuck Liddell’s career via first-round knockout.

When you stop to think about the level of competition alone that Franklin has faced, it’s astonishing. Then consider his professional MMA record is 29-6 with one no-contest, and it’s unbelievable. It’s impossible to think of another fighter—Anderson Silva aside—that has fought that kind of talent consistently throughout his career.

Always the “company man,” the Cincinnati native has clearly fought the best of the best. He’s friendly, well-spoken, and has kept a pristine image in an era plagued with TRT, DUI’s and steroids. He steps up on short notice, takes catchweight bouts, and represents the organization with the utmost class.

Franklin, who at 6-foot-1 was a fairly small light-heavyweight, is now back at his more natural weight class. He’s perhaps even a big middleweight, but he’s primed to make another run at UFC gold.

Saturday night, Franklin showed that he has the heart of a lion. He’s fought the best; he’s done everything that the UFC has asked of him, plus more. He’s never demanded the spotlight—although he certainly deserves it. Franklin will be 38 in October, and the end is certainly in sight. What better way to thank the ultimate company man than with one last run at the title?

Photo: Rich Franklin (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.