Photo courtesy: Cincinnati Enquirer
On Saturday’s UFC 236 broadcast, the promotion announced that Rich Franklin will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame as part of its Pioneer Wing.
The former middleweight champion rose to stardom during the UFC’s explosion in 2005 with exposure on Spike TV.
Franklin defeated Evan Tanner to become the UFC middleweight champion in June 2005 at UFC 53. The winner of the fight would also join Matt Hughes as the coach on the second season of the Ultimate Fighter. With the success of the first season and explosion in popularity for inaugural coaches Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, it was a career-making spot for Hughes and Franklin.
Franklin began fighting professionally in 1999 at age 24 as a light heavyweight. In an amazing stat, it wasn’t until the 23rd fight of his career that he went to a decision. During that stretch, the only blemishes on his record was a no contest with Aaron Brink and a loss to future UFC champion Lyoto Machida where they fought at 214 pounds, a weight class well above Franklin’s optimal weight.
He started his career 10-0 along with the no contest to Brink and made his UFC debut in April 2003 where fought Evan Tanner for the first time. He stopped Tanner in the opening round at UFC 42 and returned that year to defeat Edwin Dewees at UFC 44.
He didn’t fight for the organization for another year, competing for other groups including the Inoki Bom Ba Ye event on New Year’s Eve 2003 where he lost to Machida. That was the year K-1, PRIDE, and Inoki ran competing events in Japan, highlighted by Bob Sapp and Akebono fighting on the K-1 card.
On the first Ultimate Fighter Finale card, Franklin was put into a star-making position fighting Ken Shamrock in the main event on April 9, 2005. It was a big deal having Shamrock fight on cable television, but the idea was Franklin would get a big victory over a legend, and that’s what happened. The two followed the Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight with Franklin finishing Shamrock in the first round. Franklin took the fight with Shamrock at light heavyweight, but the win earned him a middleweight title shot against Tanner and would be his weight class for the next three years.
Franklin was an extremely marketable star for the UFC. He went against the stereotype of the sport with the accolade of being a former math teacher who was well spoken. He also received the nickname “Ace” for his resemblance to Jim Carrey and his Ace Ventura character.
While Franklin and Hughes never fought after Ultimate Fighter as they were champions in separate weight divisions, Franklin defended his title against Nate Quarry and David Loiseau before Anderson Silva joined the UFC in 2006. It took Silva one victory over Chris Leben to earn a title fight and destroyed Franklin at UFC 64 in October 2006 to win the title. The had a rematch one year later with a similar outcome and Franklin’s days at middleweight were numbered.
He returned to light heavyweight and took several catchweight fights at 195 pounds, which he stated would have been his ideal weight to fight at. The rest of his career included fights with Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Chuck Liddell, and Forrest Griffin. After knocking out Liddell in June 2010, it would be Liddell’s final fight until his return last November. Franklin’s last fight was in November 2012 where he was knocked out by Cung Le in Macau. He didn’t announce his retirement officially until three years later.
In 2014, he accepted an executive position with ONE Championship, which he presently holds.
He joins Michael Bisping in the UFC’s Hall of Fame class of 2019 with the ceremony taking place during International Fight Week in July.