Two weeks ago former UFC #1 lightweight contender Hermes Franca announced his retirement from MMA competition after losing to Eric Wise by TKO in Iowa. The Brazilian fan-favorite recently sat down with CagePotato to reflect on his career, explain why he’s decided to move on, what’s next, and whether he thinks he might ever get back in the cage again.
CP: Why did you decide to retire, Hermes?
HF: It was a hard decision, it wasn’t good. But right now it is really hard, especially being 35. People don’t always realize that I’m 35. I look young but I’m 35 (laughs). I hurt my knee and tried to come back but I can feel that my body is not the same. To fight at the level I fight at I have to be in excellent shape and go to a good camp and this is expensive. . There are flights, partners to help you train, food, managers, coaches. People don’t realize how expensive it is for fighters training.
And I’ve got to spend time taking care of my school so I’m not a guy training full time. You have to go to camp, doesn’t matter who you are going to face. Especially the level I got to, everybody wants to beat the guy who fought for the title. My last fight was a great show, a really great show, and no disrespect to the guy that beat me, Eric Wisely, but I don’t want to keep losing fights with guys like him. So I decided to retire.
Plus, I’m the head of the East West MMA Jiu Jitsu program and I have a lot of responsibility; I have to be responsible for others. So I needed to decide what I want for my life. At the same time when I say that I’ve retired, I’m still going to work, still going to compete in BJJ and grappling for fun.
CP: One of your most beloved fights came against a not so great fighter. Tell me about Manny Reyes, the man you fought for one dollar for the fans on The Underground Forum at MMA.tv.
HF: That’s funny. I actually go on The Underground like 1-3 times a year to post but I love MMA.tv, it’s one of my favorite websites. I go every day to check things but not to write. But when I did go there and leave some messages they think it was funny and they love that. So this guy Manny Reyes was writing some trash around 2004 and if you remember the UFC was not doing the lightweight division anymore at that time. Euphoria was doing shows and for some reason they were going to have Manny Reyes fight. He was saying he was the UFC champion and I thought this guy is crazy. He was challenging me for some reason and one of the promoters said, “Ok Hermes you want to fight?” I say “I don’t want to fight this guy, he’s nobody.”
The promoter said that the fans want someone to kill him. I had already accepted a fight with Phil Johns but I accepted the fight. Right before the fight he was saying that he wanted his own rules – one round of ten minutes and that it could only be KO or submission. He created his own rules and they were selling a lot of tickets so he wanted like $2-3,000. Because he was so expensive the promoter asked me if I would fight for one dollar. I said, “What the fuck?” The promoter said, “Come on, do it for me, you’re a good friend.” “Ok, let’s fight for one dollar.”
And the arena was crazy. Everyone was waiting for it like I was fighting Gomi or BJ Penn (laughs). It was packed! And then when we’re in the ring I can hear the promoter shouting to me, “Kill him! Kill him!” I said, “Bro you cant do that, you’re the matchmaker! (laughs)
The hardcore fans followed that fight and still talk about it just about every week on the forums. They love you for it. You are still active online, talking with fans casually. Why is it so important to you to be connected with and open to the fans like you have been?
I used to say the fans pay my bills, and I mean this in a good way. The fans, not the UFC, the fans pay my bills. Of course if the UFC had no fans they couldn’t pay my salary and purse. The fans are unbelievable. They recognize you and are supportive. I always thought, this is not forever so why by cocky and arrogant? One day I’m going to be old and am going to be retired (chuckles). What do you think is going to happen then? I have good memories and I hope people still have good memories of Hermes Franca as the years go by.
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