Rich Franklin has long been known as one of the UFC's best "company men." When the promotion finds itself in a bind or needs someone to replace an injured fighter, they know they can typically rely on "Ace" to fill the void.
But Franklin is getting on in years. At 37, he's not ancient by any means, but he's certainly approaching the twilight of what has been a memorable career.
And so the question must be asked: Has Franklin, like many other fighters of advancing age, considered using testosterone replacement therapy as a means of extending his career? Ariel Helwani posed the question to Franklin on today's edition of The MMA Hour:
Yeah, I've kicked around that idea and everything, and actually I’ve talked to doctors that work with the UFC and the athletic commission in Nevada and all that kind of stuff. And at 37, my count obviously is not what it was when I was 25, and I’m a candidate for that kind of stuff. I haven’t started yet.
But Franklin also said he understands the long-term downside of going on TRT:
I'm not sure if that's something I want to do or how I want to approach that, because TRT is … once you start that process it’s a permanent fixture. Once you start putting those hormones in your body—those synthetic hormones—then your body is not going to produce its own hormones any more, and so you really have to think carefully.
I'm sure you're very familiar with my stance on TRT by this point, but here's a brief synopsis for those who aren't: I'm against it. Plain and simple, I don't think it has any place in mixed martial arts, or any other sport, for that matter.
Everyone ages. It's a fact of life. You'll eventually get to an age where you can no longer do the one thing you've done the best over the course of your life. When that happens, it's time to quit and find something else to do.
Unfortunately for most athletes, that moment of reckoning comes much earlier in life than it does for those who work typical nine-to-five jobs. I don't agree with the idea of artificially extending your career by taking a substance that gives you the ability to continue athletic endeavors when you should be winding things down and thinking about what you're going to do when the bright lights are no longer shining directly on you.
Should exceptions be made?
Should aging fighters be allowed to use TRT in order to extend their careers?
Perhaps. In very extreme and very specific circumstances, there are athletes who just don't generate the kind of testosterone levels they need to compete.
As long as these circumstances are naturally occurring—and not brought about by past abuse of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs—I don't have a problem considering the use of testosterone.
In these situations, the athlete isn't responsible for the fact that their body just doesn't give them the tools they need to compete.
But these situations are few and far between, and I don't honestly know that we've seen any of them in mixed martial arts thus far.
Franklin certainly doesn't fall under that category. He's simply getting older, and when an athlete gets older, it's time to find something else to do.