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Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin officially retires

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Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin has officially called it a career.

The Cincinnati native had not fought since a Nov. 10, 2012 loss to Cung Le in Macau, but had long held the door slightly open to a return.

On Monday, Franklin, who turns 41 next week, made retirement official in a piece he authored in The Players' Tribune.

"I am announcing that I have closed one chapter of my life and begun another," Franklin said.

Franklin got his start during the pre-Unified Rules era, winning his first bout via head-kick knockout in 21 seconds in 1999. Minus a no-contest, he won his first 14 fights and 22 of his first 23, with his only loss in that span to Lyoto Machida in Japan.

His first UFC bout was a first-round TKO win over Evan Tanner at UFC 42 in 2003. He fought in and out of the UFC before beginning an exclusive run two years later with a quick win over Ken Shamrock at the Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale.

At UFC 53, Franklin again defeated Tanner, this time via fourth-round doctor's stoppage, and became the UFC middleweight champion. He defended his title twice, knocking out Nate Quarry and scoring a one-sided decision over David Loiseau.

By this point, Franklin had earned an avid fan following as a mild mannered school teacher who just happened to deliver butt kickings in the cage. So his quick, one-sided title loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 64 was as shocking as it was brutal. Franklin rebounded and defeated Jason MacDonald and Yushin Okami before getting another shot at Silva. This time, in Franklin's hometown of Cincinnati, he made it to the second round before Silva won.

With no path back to the top at 185, Franklin embarked on the highly successful second act of his UFC career and stayed relevant by accepting the biggest headline fights available at the time, whether they were at middleweight, light heavyweight, or a catchweight fights. Along the way, Franklin ended the career of Chuck Liddell with a violent knockout; won two fights with Wanderlei Silva, and lost a debatable decision to Dan Henderson.

His loss to Le left Franklin with a record of 29-7 (1 no-contest). He continues in the sport as a vice president of One Championship in Asia.

"What will I miss the most from this journey?" Franklin mused. "I can close my eyes and picture myself pacing the hallway before I walk out to the arena. I can hear the crowd cheering for me when For Those About To Rock begins. Then I make my way to the cage."