(In conjunction with the UFC, Yahoo! Sports will be featuring exclusive blogs from Rich "Ace" Franklin as he readies himself for his main-event showdown with Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)
People assume that because I beat Wanderlei Silva in 2009 at UFC 99 in Germany, the decision to take this rematch on Saturday in Brazil at UFC 147 was a no-brainer.
Well, in a sense it was, but there is a much bigger picture at play here, and my decision to step in for Vitor Belfort at late notice was about far more than just trading punches and kicks with Wanderlei again.
When offered the fight – and asked to move from fighting Cung Le in Vegas on July 7 to Silva in Brazil on June 23 – I took about a day to get back to the UFC, as I had a few things to think about before accepting it.
For instance, when I'm fighting in Vegas there are many things I line up – appearances and things like that – alongside the fight itself. In fact, one of the gentlemen sponsoring me for the Cung Le fight was coming to the event as one of my guests and, if I withdrew from UFC 148, he could no longer watch me in Vegas. So, in situations such as this, I consult my business manager and ask him how much a move from one card to another would impact business and whether it would be a wise idea or not.
You also have to make sure that when you switch camps and head home you have all the necessary coaches and training partners in place, because a lot of those guys won't have seen it coming and may be off doing other things. So, as you can see, when it comes to making these decision it's far more than just a case of saying 'yes' to fighting Wanderlei Silva.
You need to be prepared physically for the switch as well. Thankfully, I started training for Cung Le about a week and half earlier than I normally would, so I don't really feel as though I've lost out on time in switching opponents and dates. Initially you panic, because the dates have been switched on you and training camp is all about schedules and sticking to them, but, ultimately, I feel just great now.
At the time I agreed to the fight, it seemed like a good idea to request those five extra pounds and make the fight at 190 pounds. However, a couple of weeks in, training has gone brilliantly, to the point where I now feel as though I could have fought Wanderlei on June 23 at 185 pounds. If required, I now know I could have got down to the middleweight limit to face Wanderlei. Of course, when the fight was first put to me, I couldn't take chances like that, as I truly didn't know how my body would react upon coming home from training camp in Singapore.
You take stuff from training camps all the time and this one in Singapore was no different. Even though I won't be fighting Cung Le next month, I'll still use much of what I learned there to beat Wanderlei Silva on June 23. After all, you always pick up little things you can add to your arsenal when you spend time travelling from country to country or gym to gym, because no two gyms and two coaches will ever be the same.
Singapore was no exception. There was no great revelation or new training system found in Singapore, but there were little things that excited me out there. For example, the Thai coaches would get me to troll my hip over a little more when throwing a kick, and just that little piece of advice was worth the trip because it added something new to my game and improved my striking.
Of course, in terms of striking style, I don't think Wanderlei and Cung could be any different. Cung is different from every other striker in MMA, mainly due to his background and the way he throws certain shots. It's very hard to replicate or mimic a guy like Cung. He uses a lot of side-kicks and spinning kicks and punches, and those aren't things you see all too much in either the gym or Octagon. I've been around this game for years and don't think I've fought or trained with many guys comparable to Cung.
Wanderlei, on the other hand, is a conventional striker who is far more straightforward with what he throws and does in there. He comes at you with his hands high and looks to throw flurry after flurry until you're on the ground. Once he spots a weakness, Wanderlei is like a blender. He just won't stop.
Naturally, given all the prep I did for Cung, it's a real shame I won't be fighting him, especially as I really took to the stuff I was being taught out in Singapore. I was enjoying learning the kind of things I was learning out there and, not only that, it all made sense to me. I got to grips with it all very quickly. That made me excited to then go and implement it all against Cung during our fight.
That Cung fight was all about the puzzle for me. I was handed a puzzle by the UFC and asked to go suss it out. Thanks to my time in Singapore, I feel I was on track to doing just that. And now, with Cung a thing of the past, I just have to use what I learned out there to help me complete a puzzle I half completed back in 2009.
UFC 147 will be live on Pay-Per-View, including on Yahoo! Sports, this Saturday June 23 at 7pm PT, 10pm ET
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