Ace in the hole: An MMAmania.com UFC 99 interview exclusive with Rich Franklin

Rich Franklin is one of the most recognizable faces in the history of mixed martial arts and a guy that to this day, remains one of the UFC's most beloved former champions.

The day may come where "Ace" get serious consideration to be inducted into the UFC Hall-of-Fame, mainly due to his sixteen month reign as middleweight champion from 2005-2006, but for now that can wait.

At the age of 35 he has yet to show any visible signs of slowing down, however there is officially light at the end of the tunnel. He has now gone past the nine year mark in his storied professional career.

The ultimate goal is to eventually regain his titleholder status that was taken away from him by Anderson Silva at UFC 64 before he is forced to someday hang up his gloves for good.

The next step in his trek back to the pinnacle is a match up with former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva.

The two will tussle at a catchweight of 195-pounds in the main event at UFC 99 in Cologne, Germany on June 13.

This is a bout that many fans have been dying to see for some time now and one that is likely to produce fireworks in the form of a good old-fashioned slugfest.

Franklin took some time out of his busy schedule to talk Lyoto Machida, why he believes he beat Dan Henderson, his preparations for Wanderlei Silva including training with Anderson Silva and when he anticipates his career coming to a close.

Have a look:

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I want to start with UFC 98. Lyoto Machida dominated Rashad Evans to take home the light heavyweight belt. Did you get a chance to watch the fight? What did you think of Machida's performance?

Rich Franklin: I didn't watch the fight. I rarely watch fights when I am preparing for a fight myself, unless I am watching video of my opponent. I will watch that UFC after my fight.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Machida's a guy you fought back in 2003 in Japan. What do you remember about that fight?

Rich Franklin: I remember Machida being very elusive and much better than we had anticipated. At the time I fought him he only had three fights. I knew he would eventually find himself in the kind of situation he is in today.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you like the opportunity for a rematch against him at some point?

Rich Franklin: I would like to make a run for the 205-pound title. If he is in my path to achieving my goal I would be interested. Otherwise, I need to stay focused on what's important.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In your last fight at UFC 93 you lost a split decision to Dan Henderson. Before the judges scorecards were announced did you think you had done enough to win that fight?

Rich Franklin: I believe I won that fight. I dominated the stand-up war, and Henderson was unable to mount any damage while he had me down, let alone even keep me down most of the time. The only damage he did to me in that fight was an accidental eye poke and head butt.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Did the accidental head butt or the eye poke you sustained from Henderson in any way hinder your ability to be successful in that fight?

Rich Franklin: No, the head butt was more blood and the judges saw that and the eye poke was the last 30-45 seconds. I should have not been in that situation.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): So how big of an impact did they actually have?

Rich Franklin: None really.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Were you excited about the possibility to be a coach on The Ultimate Fighter season nine or were you less than thrilled about putting your career on hold and taking the time out to shoot the show?

Rich Franklin: I had the opportunity to coach the show before, so it was not such a big deal to me. I didn't want to give up the time away from my family a second time to be honest.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're now set to face Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99 in Germany. How has training camp been going? Where has it been taking place? Who are some of the coaches and fighters helping get you prepared for your upcoming fight?

Rich Franklin: I started my training camp at home in Cincinnati for almost two weeks. From there I went to Los Angeles to train with Anderson (Silva) for two weeks, followed by two weeks in Seattle. I returned home for my final two weeks of preparation before leaving for Germany.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What was the experience of training with Anderson Silva like for you? Who approached who as far as setting that up? What was the motivation behind setting up that connection?

Rich Franklin: The big story here seems to be me training with Anderson for this fight. We have spoken several times about training together in the past, but schedules have been conflicting.

Anderson's manager, Ed Soares, gave me a call inviting me to train in LA for this fight. They figured it would be helpful since Anderson and Wanderlei used to be teammates. I checked with my coaches Neal Rowe, Rob Radford and Matt Hume, and they all agreed it was a good idea.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Going back to Wanderlei, are you preparing for the former PRIDE middleweight champion or the guy that has lost four of his last five fights?

Rich Franklin: Despite his recent record, Wanderlei is still a dangerous fighter!

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your game plan for attacking Wanderlei? What is his biggest weakness in your opinion?

Rich Franklin: I hope to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am finally fighting someone who may want to stand with me, unlike all the wrestlers I have recently fought. Game plan: Throw punches!

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Moving forward, are you going to continue to go back and forth between 185 and 205?

Rich Franklin: I plan on staying at 205. That is why this fight is negotiated at a catchweight rather than 185.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Are there any other fighters out there you have seen from a distance and would love to fight and match your skills up against?

Rich Franklin: I got one guy on my mind right now: Wanderlei!

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How much longer do you want to fight? How many fights do you have left on your current contract?

Rich Franklin: I have two fights left on my contract. I always pictured myself retiring at the age of 36 or 37. I figure the UFC will negotiate one more contract with me, and that may carry me to the end of my career.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Have you achieved everything in the fight game you have set out to accomplish in your career?

Rich Franklin: No. If I had accomplished everything I wanted I would have no more reason to compete.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Can we expect to see you fighting for another belt before the end of your career?

Rich Franklin: I would love to capture the 205-pound title before I retire.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Before we go, is there a message you would like to pass along to your fans out there or any sponsors you would like to thank?

Rich Franklin: I love the fans I meet at appearances and I hope they will go to AmericanFighter.com and see what's up.

Derek Bolender is a staff writer for InsideFights.com and has also been featured on CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, etc... Look for future articles from him on MMAmania.com.

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