Speculation has been running rampant today about Rich Franklin moving up a weight class from middleweight (185lbs) to light heavyweight (205lbs) after his manager, Monte Cox, discussed the possibility with MMAWeekly.
“Rich has to make a decision. We’ve certainly considered going to 205 and seeing how he does up there.”
“He’s fought almost everybody in the 185-pound division. There are some guys that he could fight, but if he beats them it knocks them out of title contention. And nobody is looking to see Rich and Anderson Silva 3 right now, including me.
“In the end, we do what the UFC wants. If they want us to try 205, we’re up for it. If they want to keep us at 185, then we’ll do that too.”
I’ve never been a big proponent of high-profile fighters moving up or down in weight class just because they lost a couple fights. Cro Cop, Wanderlei and Chuck illustrate my point. All three fighters have been dominant forces in their respective weight divisions, yet as soon as they lose one, two or three fights, people are clamoring for them to move up or down in weight. Cro Cop had two very disappointing losses in the UFC, but before that, he was destroying people. Transitioning from ring to cage was obviously a much tougher adjustment than he anticipated. I would rather see him stay a heavyweight, learn from his experiences and come back as the dominating force he once was than drop down to light heavyweight immediately. It would have been just too quick in my opinion.
I think this same theory applies to Chuck and Wanderlei. Both were coming off back-to-back losses when they fought last December. Even though Liddell won the decision, I think it’s unfair to say Wanderlei had a disappointing performance. He did look significantly smaller next to Chuck—something which may provide support for the argument to drop to middleweight—but he still definitely held his own. I don’t think anyone can say with certainty that Wanderlei will never be the champion in the light heavyweight division.
And that’s where I think the difference lies in those cases and Rich’s. I don’t think there’s anyone anymore who believes Rich can beat Anderson Silva. Probably not even Rich himself. Rich could reclaim his title but he’ll have to wait for someone to knock Silva first, and that seems unlikely at the moment. I’m not Rich, but if I was, I don’t know how I could get motivated fight after fight just to hold the number two spot in the division. Sometimes, it’s just time to move on. I think now is that time for Franklin. Sure, there are intriguing match-ups with Dan Henderson and even Michael Bisping, but Franklin/Henderson can happen just as easily at 205lbs, where Dan prefers to fight anyway. Plus, that fight has more meaningful implications at 205 than at 185. At middleweight, they’re just competing for second, and where’s the fun in that? And to be honest, Bisping/Franklin could be an interesting fight, but it’s certainly not one I’m going to miss if it doesn’t happen.
True, Franklin would be giving up the size advantage that he has at middleweight, but I think that’s a necessary sacrifice in order to give him a more achievable goal. There’s a lot of really intriguing match-ups in this weight class, too. I would be fired up to see him fight any of the top contenders in the division, to see where he stacks up. How about a Franklin/W. Silva fight? Or Franklin/Griffin? Or Franklin/Shogun? Those fights would get me excited, much more than watching him knock off every possible contender in the middleweight division. That’s exactly why the UFC should want this, too.
Sometimes, it’s just time for the next challenge, no matter how daunting that challenge may seem.
What do you think?