Rich Frankin started fighting in the 90s, and won the UFC middleweight championship in 2005, against Evan Tanner. 16 months later Anderson Silva happened. A year later he fought Silva again, with that same result - they seemed to be fighting in different dimensions - Rich Franklin in the world as we know it, and Silva in something like The Matrix.
Frankin fought on, going 5-4 since, the latest a first round loss to Cung Le late last year. Rather than a march towards another title shot, Franklin fought exciting fights, not necessarily even in his weight division.
"I was just kind of fighting where the UFC wanted me to be," said Franklin. "It did get weird."
'Ace' turns 39 in October, and wants to retire soon, which has some hard implications for his career.
"I swore to myself I wouldn't be fighting into my 40s," said Franklin. "I've kind of come to the conclusion that there's not time to fight for the title again."
"If I spent two years doing the kind of training that it would take, I'd run my body into the ground. I'd be that guy who can't run up and down a basketball court anymore, and that's not what I want to do to myself."
"If I was five years younger I would make another run at the title."
"Mentally, I want to be there. But physically, it's not going to happen."
Franklin has "one or two" fights left on his current contract, and the goal is no longer a title shot, but rather to fight exciting fights. One possibility that gets mentioned frequently is Michael Bisping.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be Bisping," said Franklin. "It could be anybody that would give me a fight like that."
Frankin can even contemplate retiring before he completes his contracted fights.
"Honestly, I guess it's not that important," said Franklin. "The thing is, if I went to the doctor today and the doctor told me, 'Look Rich, you need to stop fighting right away,' I might think, well, maybe I wanted to try to fight one more, but quite honestly it's not that important. I've had a long career, a successful career, and I'm happy with where I am. It's not that big of a deal, so if I was unable to finish the contract, that'd be OK, too.
"It's not an issue of desire. It's an issue of making intelligent choices. It lets me know that, this is my definite stopping point. I will not go beyond this, for sure."
Franklin has some business interests that he is pursuing, but they are aren't fighting - nothing is.
"I'm not sure what I'll fill the rest of my time with," said Franklin. "Because I don't love anything as much as I love fighting."
"When that switch finally flips in my head and I decide, OK, I'm retiring now, I won't fight anymore. I know how I am. My whole life has been this way. When I taught high school for a living and I quit to fight, I didn't go back. I didn't go visit the teachers I taught with. I mean, I might've gone back once or twice for things, but I wasn't that guy walking through the halls going, 'Man, I miss this place.' I'm very good at compartmentalizing things, and it'll be the same with fighting. How I'm going to handle myself on a day-to-day basis, that's a different question. I don't know how I'll handle that."
And what will Rich Franklin's legacy be?
"I think I'll be remembered as a talented fighter who put on good fights," said Franklin. "Realistically, I don't really care. And I mean that in a good way. Fans formulate their opinions of you, and you don't really have any control over what their opinions are. I mean, I'd love to be remembered as the best guy who ever walked into the cage, but that's not going to happen. I was beat twice by the same guy for my title, and I was never able to recapture it."
However, the 'same guy' was Anderson Silva, hailed by many as the G.O.A.T.
"Yeah," said Franklin. "That's better than being beaten twice by some guy who was just a half-ass fighter. There's some consolation in that. I guess there is."
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