Rich Franklin is enjoying his life as a sports executive. As the Vice President of ONE FC, the Asian MMA organization based in Singapore, he's busy helping his organization with public relations work, some broadcasting during live events, operational tasks and even social media help.
But as happy as things are - and Franklin is adamant he's content - he just can't quite quit professional fighting. At least not yet. Or, at least, he thinks not yet.
The truth is he doesn't really know what his fighting future is. At the moment, 'Ace' is simply trying to juggle two compartmentalized lives, never fully in one or the other.
"Listen, my fight career and my career with ONE FC are separate," Franklin told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "I'm obviously a contracted fighter with the UFC and there's no question from you about this, but if I fight again it'd obviously have to be with UFC. I get questions all the time about am I fighting for ONE FC? Am I going to fight for them? And I can't. I'm contracted with the UFC.
"I still train," he continued. "I train basically daily still. I don't let myself fall out of shape from my reputation and the kind of work ethic I had. That stuff just doesn't go away, so I'm constantly doing the things I need to do. There are days where I wake up and I'm very hungry to fight, but I have a job here and I just spent three and a half weeks out of the country. Juggling things is going to become ever so difficult for me. So, if it's something that I am going to do, I really need to make that decision. I'm coming up on two years out of the cage inactive. You just made a comment to Michael Chandler about three years out of the cage and the ring rust and all that kind of stuff. Don't think that these factors that I think about, that they're not in the back of my head somewhere. But in theory, I would love to take my last fight."
Franklin says he doesn't think of his career often. He contends through the ups and downs, there's little to nothing he'd take back. He got enough out of it, which is precisely the problem. If you're satisfied with your career, why try to continue it when life is pulling you in other directions?
"I don't look back and I don't have regrets or anything or unfinished business. I've never felt like the kind of person that needed to avenge a loss because I can avenge a loss if I want to, but it never erases that loss anyway, so it's still there. I'm satisfied with the things that I've accomplished in my career. If I were never able to fight again, I would be OK.
"I'm fortunate in the sense that, mentally, I'm capable of moving on to a phase in my life and not hanging on to something when I'm physically not capable of hanging on. I believe my body is physically good enough to run another fight camp if not a couple more fight camps if I wanted to, but I am at that point where it's like, 'eh'. If I do one more fight, that definitely will be my last fight. I would not be the kind of fighter that would announce retirement and then decide a year later to come out of retirement."
For the UFC middleweight and light heavyweight, the only issue holding him up, aside from desire, is logistics. "It's just right now a matter of finding the time and making sure that taking a final fight does not supersede the fact that what I'm doing now is setting me up for the future," he notes.
Franklin admits he can waffle now, but not forever. He says he'll have to decide before the end of the year if he'll fight again. He also is candid that some days he's up for it. Others, he's not.
"I juggle," he confesses. "Honestly, I juggle. If you ask me one day, I'm like, 'Let's do this' and if you ask me the next day, I'm like, 'Eh, you know, maybe'."
If he does decide to continue, though, Franklin has an idea of what kind of fight he'd like, if not an actual opponent in mind. The former UFC middleweight champion wants to go out, like many fighters do, in a blaze of glory.
"Honestly, I think of just some sort of epic battle. I look at my fight against Wanderlei [Silva], for example, both of them. They were great fights, very entertaining. The kind of fight that had you on the edge of your seat. That's what I would look for, some sort of match up like that. Something that the fans would want to see and I would want to go out in style, so to speak."
Whatever happens next, Franklin believes his final fight is the dawning of an era. His contemporaries, the fighters from his generation, they've all essentially moved on. They're doing other things. Franklin, though, can't quite commit to that. He still has some kind of itch to compete, somewhere. But he knows if and when he finally does that, an era of mixed martial arts will come to an end.
"When you look at that era of fighters, my era of fighters - the Wanderleis, the Randys, the Dan Hendersons, the Matt Hugheses - we are a dying breed. If I fight again, I'm kinda like The Last of the Mohicans, so to speak."