Rich Franklin would be the best fighter in his weight class if only he could convince UFC president Dana White to add a 195-pound division.
The former middleweight champion has, for all intents and purposes, outgrown the middleweight class, but he's too small to compete with elite light heavyweights.
That was proven in his last fight, when he was manhandled by ex-light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 126 last year. Griffin's size clearly was the difference.
Franklin will get his wish Saturday when he meets Wanderlei Silva in a rematch of their epic 2009 slugfest in the main event of UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in a bout contested at 190 pounds.
Franklin was training for a bout with Cung Le at UFC 148 but agreed to take on Silva again when Vitor Belfort injured a hand and had to pull out of the match at UFC 147.
Because it's not a title fight and because he was losing two weeks of training in a bid to cut to 185 pounds for the Le fight, the UFC accommodated Franklin and made the bout with Silva at 190 pounds.
[Rich Franklin: Comparing the fighting styles of Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le]
Franklin, who lost the middleweight title to Anderson Silva at UFC 64 on Oct. 14, 2006, typically cuts from 205 pounds to make the middleweight limit of 185. The problem when he's fighting middleweights is that he gets dried out in making the weight and that impacts performance.
But fighting at light heavyweight means he's not cutting and is giving up 15, 20 pounds or more come fight time.
The former math teacher said the difference is "indescribable" between fighting at 185 and 190 and gave an apt analogy of the struggles he faces to make the various weights.
"Imagine a sponge that you wash dishes with sitting on your sink, and you take that sponge and you fill it with water to the point that the water is dripping out," Franklin said. "That's what your body is like on a normal basis. Now, when I'm cutting weight, at the middle of that week, it's like taking that sponge and wringing the water out as hard as I possibly could, trying to get every drop of water out. That's what my body is like at 190 pounds.
"Now, take that sponge that had the water wrung out of it and let it sit on the counter overnight. It would be dry and hard, like a brick. And that's what my body is like at 185 pounds. That's the difference. A lot of times, people say, 'I can't believe he only had a pound,' or 'I can't believe he couldn't lose two pounds.' But it's not the first two pounds that are the most difficult to lose. It's the last two, and sometimes the sponge is completely out of water and you can't get any more out no matter how hard you squeeze."
Franklin is willing to squeeze as hard as he can to try to get back to 185 eventually and make one final title run. He's closer to his 38th birthday than to his 37th and he knows he doesn't have a long time.
The end of a career that will ultimately earn him a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame is rapidly approaching.
And like any high-level athlete, he wants to go out, if he can, in a blaze of glory. If he's on the final lap, another win over Silva would be a good way to begin it.
"Like any other kid who grows up dreaming of being a professional athlete, I had the ability to pursue it and God blessed me with a tremendously successful career," he said. "I will always be thankful for that. I wake up and I do what I love on a daily basis. I have this fight next in front of me and it's the one that I'm focused on. The most important thing to me about this fight is winning it.
"All the other stuff, whether or not I make it to the title again, doesn't matter. This is what I have to worry about. That stuff will come in time, if it is meant to be. I'm a very competitive guy and I want to win fights and I want to make another title run. But there is no more important moment, or more important fight, for me than fighting Wanderlei [on Saturday] in Brazil. A win over Wanderlei Silva is a huge thing for any fighter, and that's all that is on my mind right now."
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