John Franchi:New Yorker Readies for Gamburyan

By Frank Curreri

Small town, big dreams. It’s a common story, but it’s not John Franchi’s story. Raised in Corning, New York – amid a population of roughly 11,000 – Franchi didn’t aspire to someday flee his hometown in search of stardom, wealth and fame. Instead he flirted with the idea of following in the footsteps of his father, a correctional officer who supervised maximum security prisoners. When that vision faded, Franchi went to college and pursued his passion: wrestling. From the fruit of that tree, everything else has grown. Franchi became a three-year starter for Cortland State University’s wrestling team, earned a bachelor’s degree in art, and finds himself with a 5-0 professional record headed into a June 7 showdown against UFC veteran Manvel “The Anvil” Gamburyan (10-5).

Neither man is yet mentioned among the WEC featherweight division’s elite, but the outcome of this clash could change that. Franchi indicated his strategy for the biggest fight of his life will boil down to one thing: spontaneity.

“I’ve only seen a couple of his fights. He looks like a tough dude but I feel like I match up well with him,” he said. “I know that he comes at you 110 percent and he’s a good judo player, and that’s stuff I have to watch out for. I don’t really have a game plan when I come in, I just kind of go with the flow. Whatever my opponent does I react off of. That’s basically what I do.”

It’s not every day you hear a pro fighter basically announce that their strategy is no strategy, but hey, if it ain’t broke then why fix it, right? The 26-year-old Franchi scored a split decision victory over Mike Budnik in his WEC debut, in what was predominantly a high-paced, back-and-forth ground war. Every chance Franchi had he tried to punch Budnik in the face, and the New Yorker clearly landed the bout’s most consequential blows. It was the first time a Franchi fight has went the distance (after two submission wins and two TKO’s), and he sees value in that experience.

“Now I know I can go the distance, which is cool,” he said. “I wanted to stand with him more but he kept on jumping and pulling guard on me. I wish I could have postured up for more ground and pound.”

Training out of Team Bomb Squad in Cortland – the same gym that has produced UFC dynamo Jon Jones – Franchi is a former amateur boxer and kickboxer. Asked if he has heavy hands, he replied, “People tell me I do. I think so. I knock people out.”

Unlike a lot of pro fighters, Franchi doesn’t have another job to make ends meet. He lives with his girlfriend of eight years.

“I’ve got a great girlfriend, man, and she helps me out,” he said with a chuckle. “In my downtime I play video games.”

And to hear Franchi tell it, it’s a refreshingly stress-free gig.

“Everybody tells me they get nervous and stuff, but I don’t really get nervous because I’ve been competing my whole life in wrestling,” he said. “It’s just another competition and it just feels natural. I’m a one-on-one kind of guy. I don’t like to do team sports, really. All I do is fight, bro, that’s it. I just like to put on good shows, man. I train hard every day to eventually be one of (the big) names. But win or lose, I just want the crowd to like it.”

ttt for ny mma

 War Franchi!

 John "The Alligator" Franchi!