Florian not sold on Franklin’s KO

Last
Saturday was a big deal for MMA fans in Cayman. During the day prospective
fighters trained with Ultimate Fighting Championship brawler Kenny Florian and
renowned coach Peter Welch. At night the duo joined the Cayman crowd in
watching UFC 115.

Thanks
to FAST Defence founder Bob Daigle who organised the visit, locals got tips on
many aspects of MMA fighting at the D Dalmain Ebanks Boxing Gymnasium. Florian
and Welch held two seminars over five hours on the art of Muay Thai kickboxing
and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on training mats and in the ring.

Afterwards
MMA fans braved extremely bad weather and went to Cayman’s top MMA sports bar
Aqua Beach to catch the fights and drink some cold Budweiser alongside the
stars.

All
would be in for another exciting evening of UFC entertainment. From Evan
Dunham’s split decision win over Tyson Griffin to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s
rear naked choke to tap out Pat “HD” Barry in the third round, the action was
fast and furious. The short but eventful highlight of the night was Rich “Ace”
Franklin’s surprising first round knockout of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. The
decisive strike came seconds before the horn to end the round. Franklin landed
a short right jab that floored Liddell.

Many
in attendance at Aqua Beach were left in awe at the result. Florian however was
far from convinced, stating both fighters are way over the hill.

“In
such a fast-growing sport as MMA you would think older guys like Liddell and
Franklin would be pushed aside,” Florian said. “The reality is those guys have
huge followings and fights featuring those guys will get a lot of interest and
viewers. Even though they are past their prime, they still command a lot of
money and respect.

“I
personally don’t rate myself that high. At the same time I don’t want to be
like Liddell and Franklin who keep fighting well past their prime.”

Florian
and local fight fans may well have seen the last of Liddell. Reports around the
Internet point to the 40-year-old possibly retiring. Based on his prefight
comments, he does not sound finished.

“If
I didn’t think I could still beat the best in the world, I wouldn’t be fighting
still,” Liddell said. “I plan on making another run for the title. My timing is
on and I’m in great shape.”

On
the other hand former middleweight champion Franklin is not pleased to have
knocked out Liddell.

“It’s
kind of a bittersweet victory because Chuck and I are friends,” Franklin said.
“I don’t want to be the guy labelled as ‘this is the person that put him out of
the sport.’ I don’t like the thought of that.”

Franklin
stepped in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Tito Ortiz and the
former math teacher may need weeks to heal. He suffered a broken forearm in the
bout’s opening seconds. His doctor suggested after the fight that he keep his
arm wrapped in a cast for three weeks before contemplating surgery. Franklin
stated he was not worried about the forearm during the fight.

“I
was just happy the fight was over. I knew my arm was broken and there was a
part of me wondering what kind of strategy I was going to use to win the fight
with a broken arm. I kind of got stupid standing in front of him. He looked
like he was making himself tired though, putting a lot of energy into punches
that weren’t landing.”

Aside
from his upcoming fight with Gray Maynard on August 28, Florian has his eyes on
another bout. The Peruvian-American states he would be interested in the
possible clash between a boxing legend and a UFC stalwart in Boston this
summer.

“It
would be interesting to see James Toney the boxer take on Randy Couture the MMA
master. All I can say is Toney vs. Couture in an MMA fight? C’mon who do you
think I’d pick? Obviously it would be Couture. Now if it was a boxing match I’d
have to pick Toney.”

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Florian was here last weekend.
Photo: Matthew Yates