Franklin is not a stereotypical fighter. He attended the University of Cincinnati, and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics, as well as a master's degree in education. He still fights out of Cincinnati, Ohio, so it appears his new-found success hasn't gone to his head. Rich's face isn't battered. He doesn't have cauliflower ears; his nose isn't crooked. He has all his teeth, and is both mild-mannered and soft-spoken.
But just how tough is Franklin? On April 9th 2005, Rich fought UFC legend Ken Shamrock on the finale of the wildly popular Spike TV program The Ultimate Fighter. With Shamrock still in fine fighting form, many naturally expected the fight to go his way; but it was Franklin who destroyed Shamrock by TKO, at 2:44 of the first round.
That night Franklin's strikes and all-round skills were too much for "The World's Most Dangerous Man." It was the kind of victory which made believers out of those who saw it, including this writer. But that career-making victory over Shamrock came after seven years of toil in the fight game.
So how did this man achieve the skills and incredible punching power that has made him one of the most exciting champion fighters today?
In a recent Q&A with UFC.com, Franklin explained his first training/conditioning technique:
"When I decided that I wanted to do an MMA fight, I spent four months training. It was an amateur fight. My buddy, Josh, and I were training in a shed that was designed for lawnmower equipment in the back yard.
"It was a little 12'x15' shed with no air-conditioning in the summer and no heat in the winter, just a little space heater. We just trained and trained and trained.
"At the time, we were watching the UFC and we'd say to ourselves that one day one of us would fight in the UFC. Now I am fighting in the UFC. I'm actually accomplishing what I set out to do."
When preparing for a match these days, Franklin spends 7 weeks in training. He makes sure to have 42 hours of grappling practice, with an emphasis on Brazilian Ju-jitsu and wrestling. He also puts in 42 hours of practice on those vicious strikes, which include hours of boxing and kickboxing.
One matter which is often missed about Franklin's training: he tends to spar with fighters much bigger than himself. It's no surprise to see Franklin practicing his boxing abilities against men around 240 pounds, and therefore out-weigh him by several pounds.
In 2005 Joe Hall of CIN Weekly commented on these practices:
"For a half hour, sparring partners take turns with Franklin in three-minute intervals. He slips his head to the left, and a punch snaps through the air where his chin was.
"[Franklin] dances to the right, and the rushing opponent stumbles off balance. Franklin smashes a kick into his thigh and the man grunts, then the training session continues."
To maintain his spectacular punching power, Rich puts in 28 hours of weight-lifting during his 7-week preparation for an upcoming UFC match.
But Franklin never neglects his conditioning; many 'power punchers' can forget this simple matter. It comes back to haunt them when they're in with an experienced fighter. In such a case the opponent blocks or slips the blows, and waits for the puncher to simply run out of gas. This is the technique Ali used to defeat George Foreman, for example.
During this fight preperation period, Rich always puts in 35 hours of conditioning, which include running, swimming and other cardio exercises. Franklin of course watches what he eats as well, taking in 4,500 calories per day, spread out over six meals each and every day. Franklin also makes sure to take 7 days off, to ensure he is not so worn out with training that he has nothing in the tank come fight day.
The result of all this training? Rich loses about 25 pounds, mostly water weight, by the pre-fight weigh-in. Franklin also perfects the abilities which have made him the UFC Middleweight Champion. That's pretty important too...
But what does Franklin consider the most important ability in his fighting arsenal?
"My intelligence. I'm a patient fighter and I keep my wits about me. I wait for the right moment to do things.
"I find myself in good situations all the time in my fights. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I'm like 'How did I pull that off?'"
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