Rich Franklin in Cincy Enquirer

Cincinnati Enquirer story...GO ACE!!


TTT for my good friend Rich!!! 

<!---##CCI#[/Text]---><!---##CCI#[Text Tag=deck Group=All Convert=HeadConv]--->Former math teacher pursues pinnacle of mixed martial arts <!---##CCI#[/Text]--->

<!---###STORY###---><!---##CCI#[Text Tag=body Group=All]---><!---KANE--->Rich Franklin said it wasn't a hard decision to quit his job about a year and a half ago. He can always go back to being a math teacher. But for now, he'd rather take a full-time jab at something that's not exactly legal on school grounds.

Franklin, a former Oak Hills teacher who has a bachelor's degree in math and a master's degree in education from the University of Cincinnati, has turned his focus to mixed martial arts, a sport that involves a combination of fighting techniques including Jiu-Jitsu, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling.

On Oct. 22, he will fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship 50 in Atlantic City, N.J. The middleweight (185-pound) match against Jorge Rivera will air live on pay-per-view. It will be the third UFC match for Franklin, who won his first two in the light heavyweight (205-pound) division by TKO and is 17-1-0 overall in MMA events. It's a match Franklin and his training partners are excited about.

"There is not one point that Jorge Rivera is stronger than Rich," trainer Jorge Gurgel said. "(Rich) never gets tired. He's physically very, very fit. And he never gives up. He's going to fight the whole way. I can pretty much guarantee victory."

Franklin's fighting history goes back about six years. He loved football but found he was too small to play in college, so he turned his competitive nature to martial arts. He had seen UFC fights before and decided he liked it. In early 1998, he began to compete in amateur MMA shows, training with his buddy, Josh Rafferty, in a wooden tool shed because their training facility had closed.

"Winter time, we had two space heaters for minimal heat. There were days when it was 40 degrees in the winter," Franklin said. "In the summer, it would be 110 degrees with the sun beating down."



It happened kind of fast from there, "a couple of breaks," and soon Franklin fought in his first professional show in late 1999. He started doing more shows, all the while balancing his two careers - fighting and teaching. Sometimes, he'd have to go to school with a black eye or a twisted ankle. But that part of his career was something that often kept his students interested.

"When you have a math teacher that's a professional athlete on the side, that's impressive to them because it's rare. It makes you stand out, and it gives you a way to connect with them, something to talk about," Franklin said. "Even if they really don't care about the sport, they'd still be curious about things, like if you come in with a black eye, they'll be like, 'What happened to you?' Often times you find yourself talking to students who you have trouble connecting with otherwise."

Franklin said many people find the sport interesting once they give it a chance. He said there's a high level of respect among athletes. Even his wife, who first told him before they started dating that she didn't know "who would put up with that fighting that you do," is a fan.

"Most people would look at the sport and think, 'Man that's barbaric,' " Franklin said. "But once they actually get into it, and my wife especially, and they see the amount of time we put into getting better, they start having a lot of respect. It's like a physical chess game."

And Franklin is good at playing it.

"When I first got here, not to be rude or anything, but I didn't think they would be as good as they were," said Scott Sheeley, a kickboxing specialist who drives an hour and a half a couple times a week to train with Franklin and Gurgel. "I've been doing this for 13 years, and this is the best training that I've gotten."

Since becoming a full-time fighter, Franklin has been training six days a week with various partners who specialize in different aspects of MMA. In between, he squeezes in one or two nights a week helping students at an after-school credit-recovery program. He has dreams of winning a UFC belt one day, but making this career last five or 10 years also would make him happy.

"If I could pull off having a great record and being remembered as a great fighter, and make enough money in the process that I'm not wasting my time doing it, then I'll be happy," Franklin said. "If I get hurt and can't fight, I can always go back to teaching."


Franklin is too cool.