This weekend, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight veteran Rich Franklin will be facing fellow experienced professional mixed martial artist Wanderlei Silva, on somewhat short notice, when the two exchange leather at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on June 23, 2012.
"Ace" will be standing in for Vitor Belfort, who was pulled from the card after injuring his hand during training. Franklin was originally set to face Cung Le at UFC 148, before the UFC asked him to take "The Phenom's" place opposite "The Axe Murderer."
Franklin spoke with "Inside MMA" about how the change of opponents has affected him and his training:
"Aside from the obvious, that Cung is a kicker, and he comes from all these unorthodox angles -- spins and backfists and all this kind of stuff -- I think the biggest difference is the aggressiveness of this fight. Wanderlei is the kind of fighter that comes forward. He presses. He's known for constantly putting pressure on the other fighter and using his conditioning and just his heavy hands to kind of wear people down.
There are a lot of wrestling things that we did, and some of the jiu-jitsu stuff that we did should carry over. But really, the things that we focused on with our stand up, particularly, is not going to be very useful for Wanderlei, because it was all about technique and pattern recognition and making sure that I'm not gonna get hit with one of the spinning kicks. Wanderlei's not going to do them. It'll be a completely different game with him."
Franklin will also have the confidence of knowing that he has fought Silva before and emerged victorious, when they met at UFC 99 in Cologne, Germany, on June 13, 2009. Hear what he learned from the first go-round, after the jump:
"Basically, I just remember it being a really tough match. I knew that going in, too. I knew it was just gonna be one of those 'grinder' matches, where I basically had to be careful not to get caught with something big. When he decides to attack, it's like turning on a blender. Once those arms start moving, they take out anything that's in their way. You just have to make sure that you're not there for those kinds of things."
Even though he was able to notch the decision the first time, Franklin admits that this will be an entirely different fight:
"The way that I look at this is that it's two different fighters on a different night. The first fight won't necessarily be an indicator of how the second fight will be."
Rumors have been circulating that this may be a retirement fight for Wanderlei, win or lose. Franklin was asked if he, himself, has entertained any thoughts of hanging up the eight-ounce gloves after his next fight. Here's what he had to say:
"My mind hasn't even started going in that direction yet. I haven't given that any kind of thought. I've been asked about retirement a lot recently. The way that I think about retirement, is I believe that I'll wake up one day and I'm just gonna tell myself, 'You know what? I've had enough. I'm good to go. I'm happy with what I've done in this sport, and I don't feel like coming to the gym and putting myself through this abuse anymore.' I never go into a fight and think, 'This could possibly be my retirement fight.' If I was going to do that, I would have made the announcement prior to the fight."
Though he's pretty set on not calling it quits this weekend, the 37-year old Franklin doesn't plan on being a professional fighter for a whole lot longer:
"The more you get asked about something, the more you start thinking about it. It becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like, 'If everybody's asking me about retirement, maybe it's time to retire.' You have to block that automatic reaction, in your head, of thinking that way. I've always said in the past that I don't think I'll be fighting in my forties. I'm pretty sure that I will definitely be retired by the time I'm forty."
Every athlete wants to go out on top. As a man who was once the UFC Middleweight Champion (including two consecutive title defenses), Franklin just wants one more crack at the belt before he rides off into the sunset:
"I don't think that this win, right here, would give me a title shot. But, I think, perhaps, if I win this fight and beat another key opponent, or possibly two, then yes, there's a chance that they would give me another title shot."