Former UFC champion and longtime fan favorite Rich Franklin is officially headed to Singapore. According to a report on Yahoo Singapore, a month after announcing his intentions, "Ace" is now officially the vice president of the Asia-based fight promotion, ONE FC.
"The offer was definitely something that appealed to me and I like the people at ONE FC, so it was a no-brainer decision,' Franklin told the site. "There was no convincing needed for me to join the team. I’m a One FC member and I’m here this week to discuss how I can optimise my expertise and experience. I am here to learn the culture of the organization, how it operates, how it functions. They have an aggressive growth plan over the next couple of years and it will be about me learning how that growth plan is going to execute."
Part of that growth has been in picking up talent from the west. Franklin is the latest move by ONE FC to fortify its brand in Asia. Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren recently signed with ONE FC, and will make his promotional debut against Bakhtiyar Abbasov at the ONE FC: Glory and Honor card that happens on May 30, the same event that Franklin assumes his new duties.
Other names that ONE FC has added to its roster include Jason Chambers and AMC Pankration coach Matt Hume. CEO Victor Cui said that Franklin, who is not yet officially retired from fighting, will have a multifaceted role with the promotion.
"We will continue to define [Franklin's] role, but to me what’s most important is finding the best people," he said. "I am aggressively hiring in all positions and looking to add another 200 staff in the near future as we grow. At the moment, we are a young company still and Rich will do a lot of different things for us, from talent management to fighter recruitment and giving seminars."
Franklin last fought in November 2012 against Cung Le in Macau (he lost via knockout). Since then he has launched a juice franchise called Ze/Lin, and had been busy getting that off the ground in Los Angeles. Speculation on him fighting against was quelled when the UFC visited his hometown of Cincinnati earlier this month, and Franklin wasn't involved.
The topic of him taking the new VP post was brought up to UFC president Dana White last month, who still has the the 39-year old Franklin under contract for one more fight. White said he had no problem with it, because Franklin -- who was forever dubbed "the company man" for stepping in whenever the UFC needed him -- was up front about his intentions.
"[Frankin]'s still under contract to fight, if he ever wanted to fight," White said. "You know, we have a good relationship with Rich. Rich got offered a really good opportunity to go work with those guys and I'm happy for him. There's nothing wrong if you come and ask and say...hey listen, how can be upset with a guy for trying to better his life or taking a great opportunity somewhere? You can't. It's the sneaky guys that lie to your face and all that stuff.
"If he came back and wanted to fight he's still under contract with us, and he hasn't officially retired."