Only seven men have tasted victory more often inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s famed Octagon than Rich Franklin. Four of them -- Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz -- are already enshrined in the UFC hall of fame, and two others, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, seem destined to join them.
Franklin has built quite a resume for himself since he made his promotional debut at UFC 42 in 2003, as he has compiled a 14-5 record within the company, with a staggering 11 of those 19 appearances coming against current or former champions. As the 38-year-old onetime middleweight titleholder traverses the twilight of his career, he can focus on forging a legacy.
Seeking back-to-back wins for the first time since 2008, Franklin will collide with former Strikeforce champion Cung Le in the UFC on Fuel TV 6 headliner on Saturday at the CotaiArena in Macau, China. While Le remains his central focus, Franklin admits to having his sights set on another potential title run at 185 pounds, despite the fact that he has lost twice in convincing fashion to reigning champion Silva. The bout with Le will serve as his return to the 185-pound division. Franklin has not competed at the weight since he defeated Travis Lutter at UFC 83 in April 2008, bouncing between various catchweights and light heavyweight.
“I always hate getting asked about title fights and all that kind of stuff when I’m getting ready for a fight because, right now, I’ve got Cung on my radar,” Franklin said at a pre-fight press conference. “That’s my primary goal, but, ultimately, dropping down to 185 was about possibly making another title run before I retire.”
Known for his flashy, heavy-on-kicks style, Le last appeared at UFC 148 in July, when he captured a unanimous decision from Patrick Cote at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 40-year-old sanshou stylist has secured seven of his eight career victories by knockout or technical knockout. Franklin holds Le in high esteem, personally and professionally, which adds a unique dynamic to a main event through which the UFC hopes to crack open a new market.
“It’s interesting because [with] Cung and I, you have two fighters on the card here who are actually friends outside the Octagon, and this isn’t the first time that this has happened in my career,” Franklin said. “I think what people are going to understand is that it doesn’t take two people to hate each other to actually get in the Octagon and put on a good show. People are going to leave happy.”
In order to prepare for the bout, Franklin spent time honing his skills in Singapore.
“Preparation has gone really well; camp’s gone great,” he said. “I’m ahead of schedule on weight cut, as to where I would normally be at this point in time. I’m just at the point now where it’s pretty much time to fight. It’s a waiting game putting on the finishing touches.”
Potential Springboard for ‘Stun Gun’
“Really this is the first time for me to ever fight [for the UFC] in Asia, so it really means a lot to me,” the 30-year-old South Korean said through a translator. “I think going into this match ... if I do well, I’m hoping this will kind of ride into potentially doing a UFC match in Korea next year.”
First, Kim must clear a substantial hurdle. An awkward but potent striker with a polished ground game, Thiago already owns victories over former welterweight title contender Josh Koscheck and the American Kickboxing Academy’s Mike Swick. The 31-year-old Constrictor Team representative finds himself backed into a corner following his 42-second knockout loss to Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April. It was Thiago’s third defeat in four fights.
“He’s going to really have an uphill battle because I think for him to be fighting in Asia for the first time, he has to overcome jetlag and the time differences,” Kim said. “I’ve really prepared myself to put on a good show.”
Kim has questions of his own to answer. His last outing was far from memorable, as a rib injury resulted in an anticlimactic technical knockout loss to 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Demian Maia at UFC 148 in July.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to complete the match,” Kim said. “I’d like to add the disappointments into this particular match, and I have the added incentive to really prepare well. I don’t really have to adjust to the time difference like I do when I go to Las Vegas. I’m sleeping well. I’m preparing well. I’m really looking forward to this.”
Kim feels a sense of pride when discussing his body of work in the UFC, which includes victories against “The Ultimate Fighter” winners Nate Diaz and Amir Sadollah.
“The UFC is where the fittest survive,” he said. “For me to be able to fight a 10th match in the UFC, that really means a lot.”
This & That
Only two fighters on the UFC on Fuel TV 6 roster will enter the cage undefeated: Stanislav Nedkov (12-0) and newcomer Jon Tuck (6-0). Nedkov faces Thiago Silva at 205 pounds, while Tuck locks horns with Tiequan Zhang at 155 ... Former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight kingpin Takanori Gomi owns a mediocre 6-5 mark since his February 2007 encounter with Nick Diaz resulted in a no contest ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 quarterfinalist Alex Caceres has won four fights by submission and lost four fights by submission ... Japanese flyweight Yasuhiro Urushitani has never suffered back-to-back defeats in his 11-year career ... Tom DeBlass was a two-division champion inside the Ring of Combat promotion, holding titles as a light heavyweight and heavyweight ... World Extreme Cagefighting import Takeya Mizugaki has alternated between wins and losses in each of his past nine appearances ... Korean Top Team standout Hyun Gyu Lim sports seven first-round finishes on his resume. The 27-year-old has put away his last two foes in 72 seconds or less.