The fight comes at a critical time for Franca, as he has lost consecutive bouts for the first time since 2005. The 33-year-old Brazilian dropped a unanimous decision to Frankie Edgar at UFC Fight Night 14 last month in his first match back after a year-long suspension for admitted steroid use.
“It was just great to be back in the UFC,” Franca said. “It was a crazy year. I fought against a tough opponent, and I thought I did well. I have no excuses.”
A monstrous lightweight who once fought at 170 pounds, Tibau, like Franca, will enter the bout on a two-fight losing streak, having submitted to a Joe Stevenson (Pictures) guillotine choke at UFC 86 in July. The 24-year-old Brazilian holds notable victories against Fabricio Camoes (Pictures), Jason Dent (Pictures) and Terry Etim (Pictures). Franca (18-7), a former member of ATT's Coconut Creek squad, knows Tibau (15-6) well.
“Gleison’s a friend of mine,” Franca said. “I just saw him last week. We shook hands, and I wished him luck.”
Franca, who turns 34 later this month, has been finished only once as a professional. He owns submission wins against reigning World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion Jamie Varner (Pictures) and rising UFC lightweight contender Nathan Diaz (Pictures), along with knockout victories over Pat Miletich (Pictures) protégé Spencer Fisher (Pictures) and International Fight League lightweight titleholder Ryan Schultz (Pictures).
A heavy handed Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt known for throwing wild haymakers inside the cage, Franca rode an eight-fight winning streak to a lightweight title shot against former champion Sean Sherk (Pictures) at UFC 73 in July 2007. Controlled by the superior wrestler, Franca dropped a unanimous decision to the supremely conditioned Minnesotan. Both men were later flagged for suspected steroid use by the California State Athletic Commission.
Back near the bottom of the pecking order in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions, he wants another shot at championship gold.
“Of course, that’s what I wish for,” Franca said. “There are a lot of fighters [in my division], and I got my chance. I have to go to the back of the line.”