Born a year apart in Fortaleza, Brazil, Aurelio and Franca are uniquely familiar with one another. In fact, Aurelio coached his younger countryman before they joined American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Franca has since parted ways with ATT.
“It doesn’t matter who I fight; it’s a big challenge,” Franca said. “It is what it is. We’re both professionals. I think it’s better for me. I know his game really well. I’ve never trained with Gleison before.”
A little more than a year removed from a UFC lightweight title bout against former champion Sean Sherk (Pictures), Franca (18-7) finds himself in need of a victory. The 34-year-old has followed an eight-fight winning streak with back-to-back decision losses to Sherk and Frankie Edgar. A year-long steroid suspension was sandwiched in between.
“When you lose fights, it sucks,” Franca said. “It’s going to be a good fight. I want to win and give people what they want to see.”
Aurelio (16-6), a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has never been finished, last competed in July when he dropped a unanimous decision to rising lightweight contender Tyson Griffin (Pictures) at UFC 86. The defeat snapped a two-fight winning streak for the 35-year-old, who holds notable victories against former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Takanori Gomi (Pictures), Cage Rage world featherweight champion Masakazu Imanari (Pictures) and veteran Rich Clementi (Pictures).
On the verge of becoming just another face in the UFC’s deep 155-pound division, Franca knows he has a difficult test ahead of him.
“That’s what I’m looking for,” Franca said. “I’m training hard every day.”
A middleweight title bout pairing reigning 185-pound kingpin Anderson Silva (Pictures) with Patrick Cote (Pictures) will headline UFC 90, along with a pivotal welterweight showdown between Diego Sanchez (Pictures) and Thiago Alves (Pictures).