At UFC 115, Rich Franklin proved that nice guys can finish first.
A little more than a decade ago, Rich Jay Franklin II was a mild-mannered high school math teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Had the fight bug not bitten him, that would have been the end of this story; his life would have amounted to nothing more than PTA meetings and grading papers.
Fortunately for us, that fight bug bit him hard, and never let go.
After a failed run at playing college football, Franklin decided to get back to his martial arts roots from his days spent taking Karate as a child.
While training, he became friends with his instructor's sons, who happened to be studying Thai Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. This prompted Rich to start adding some variety to his training.
After watching his first local amateur MMA show, Franklin decided to try his hand at fighting despite beginning his new career as a teacher.
After a few successful fights, Franklin made a decision that would ultimately change his life forever; he quit his teaching job and began fighting full-time.
His newly expanded training time allowed him to build his record to an impressive 11-0, which opened the door for him to make his UFC debut at UFC 42: Sudden Impact against Evan Tanner.
Rich went on a tear in UFC; amassing an 8-1 record before being given the shot of a lifetime at UFC 53: Heavy Hitters for the UFC Middleweight Championship.
The man who fans came to name "Ace" because of his incredible resemblance to Jim Carrey's character, Ace Ventura, had been effective enough to get a TKO stoppage in the fourth round over Tanner to become a champion.
ALONG CAME A SPIDER
Franklin followed up his championship win with two successful title defenses, and looked to be the Middleweight title holder for a very long time. That was until he ran into a man they call "The Spider" Anderson Silva.
Ace's first fight with Silva was short and painful to say the least. The Spider showed a style that all of us have come to know him for: Super Striker. In a true spider-like fashion, he got a hold of Franklin in the clinch, landed some devastating knees, and it was over. There was now a new champion.
Not to be denied, Franklin made his comeback by winning back to back fights. He was all set for a rematch with Silva at UFC 77: Hostile Territory in Cincinnati. This fight was especially meaningful for Franklin since it would be a homecoming for him. Unfortunately, the celebration would be short lived.
In what would be a repeat of the same, Silva virtually destroyed Franklin with knees to the head and body, thus cementing the start of his strangle hold on the 185 pound division.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Over the last few years, Ace has been plagued with injuries and a recent loss to Brazilian Powerhouse Vitor Belfort. While contemplating his next move, he did UFC President Dana White a great favor, and served as a last minute replacement coach and opponent for Chuck Liddell on this season of the The Ultimate Fighter.
Last night, in a fight that may serve as a career shaper for both men, Rich Franklin showed why he's truly an ace. In what was an action packed fight, Franklin was able to put "The Iceman" down with a right hand towards the end of the 1st round.
What made his victory even more impressive was his ablility to get the win even after suffering a broken left arm from a blocked body kick administered by Liddell. Whether Franklin continues fighting in the 205lb division is uncertain, but regardless of where he goes from here, he has surely ensured that he'll be a UFC Hall of Famer.
Throughout his career, Ace has carried himself with dignity and class which for so many reasons has earned Rich Franklin the title of "Nicest Guy in MMA" .