The camp for Rich Franklin did not turn down a fight with PRIDE FC 185-pound standout Paul Filho in favor of Yushin Okami at UFC 72, according to a recent interview with MMAFighting.com.
Rumors swirled the last month or so that "Ace" preferred to fight Okami instead of Filho when the UFC was searching for a fighter to replace the injured Martin Kampmann.
That's not how it went down, says the former UFC middleweight champion.
Here's a snip:
"It took a couple of days before [the UFC] came back with a name for me [to replace Kampmann]. Actually, they had thrown Paulo Filho and Yushin Okami. And so Monte and I were discussing the whole scenario, and I told Monte [Cox] to just let me know who the UFC decides to come back with.... Several days later they came back with Yushin Okami as the replacement. I said that's fine. Either way, I was fine. I essentially said, ‘Cool, let me know what they decide.'"
The decision makes sense from a few perspectives.
First, Okami has beat some stiff competition since his Octagon debut in 2006, running his record inside the Octagon to a perfect 4-0. During that span he has built some name recognition among fans and critics that he is a top contender in the middleweight class.
Second, even though Filho is one of the best fighters at his weight in mixed martial arts, he isn't well-known among casual fans. And to risk having him beat a draw like Franklin in his first fight could have been catastrophic for the Cincinnati native.
Finally, what kind of message does it send to all the other fighters grinding it out the past year or so that a guy comes in and gets an instant shot to knock off the ex-champ in a main event?
Put simply, the UFC made the right decision on this one -- Okami is solid.
However, I'm not so sure about signing Filho to a WEC contract ... he seems like a much better fit for the UFC.
UFC 72: "Victory" is set for June 16 in Belfast, Ireland. For the complete UFC 72 fight card click here.