Rich Franklin concentrating on juice business, return to UFC will wait
Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin has always had a plan for his life after fighting and right now that particular business is taking precedence over his final bout inside the Octagon.
For the last 18 months, Franklin has been embroiled in a business venture to launch his own personal line of juice bars and bakeries starting with his first store set up in Beverly Hills, California. About a month ago all the hard work paid off as Franklin opened ZeLin (a combination of Franklin's name along with his business partner Billy Zebe) and the passion he's always exuded during his fight career has now been transferred to his business where he's spending the bulk of his time these days.
Nutrition has been a life long passion for Franklin and it's something he accredits to his longevity in the sport of mixed martial arts. Now he's putting that know how to work in his new store while also planning expansion in the coming years as well.
"I've been working on this thing for about a year and a half now. The name of the business is ZeLin, and the first location has been opened on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. I've been open for business about a month now, and like every business it started out slow, but every day it's upward trending and I'm really happy with the way things are going," Franklin explained in an interview with FOX Sports.
"We're more than a juice bar. Our bar is 100-percent organic, everything in there's organic so much like the rest of the industry we have fresh made juices and cold pressed juices that are made from organic fruits and vegetables and nothing added into it. On top of that, we serve Acai bowls, we do a full line of gluten free baked goods, we also have some vegan baked goods. We have a full Chinese tonic herb and elixer bar and we just do different wellness shots like wheat grass shots and ginger shots."
Franklin calls his juice bar 'a natural transition' for his life after fighting is over.
After fighting is over is a key choice of words because Franklin hasn't fought since November 2012 in a loss to Cung Le, and since that time he's made it public information that he has one fight remaining on his current contract with the UFC and he wants to fulfill it before retiring from the sport for good.
So about two weeks ago, Franklin sat down with UFC president Dana White to talk about his future with the company. According to the Ohio native, White immediately recognized the passion and energy that Franklin is putting forth into this new business and that's where his focus will remain for the foreseeable future.
A fledgling business is no different than having a newborn baby at home because it requires undivided attention, and Franklin started to understand that more and more as he got close to opening the doors for the first time a month ago. Franklin says White gave him some valuable advice during their meeting that gave him the go ahead to focus on his business for now and fighting can come later.
"It's funny that you said that comparing the business to a baby because it's the exact same thing that Dana (White) said to me a couple of weeks ago when I sat down with those guys and talk. The reality is now I'm in that stage of things," Franklin said. "This is one of those things I didn't know a year and a half ago when I was talking about starting this business.
"I'm not at a point right now where I can sit back and let the people that I have in places just run the business. It requires my constant attention. You learn this about business -- nobody gets things done the way that you get things done."
Franklin had originally set forth a schedule so that he could launch his new business and get a fight in before the end of last year. Obviously things changed over the course of 2013, and Franklin knows it was all just part of the growing pains of becoming a business owner.
"In terms of the timeline I had originally set for this business, my original timeline, my plan was to have a fight in before the end of 2013. That's the timeline that I had. Like I'll work on this business for a little while and then I'll ramp back up, get ready for a fight, train for a specific opponent and fight again. My timeline has been thrown off," Franklin said.
To launch the business, Franklin relocated to Los Angeles full time where he lives out of an apartment that also serves as the company headquarters. He bikes to work each day, back and forth a few miles in each direction, to keep his body in shape while he's helping the store stabilize after opening.
He knows that ZeLin needs him right now and the fight game will still be there when he's ready to return. The focus is making sure that his new business gets off the ground and flies before he exits for a few months to get ready for his final fight in the UFC.
"Even if I could walk away right now and put my business on cruise control, I would be looking at five to six months before I could actually fight," Franklin revealed. "Because I wouldn't be comfortable like 'okay give me somebody and give me eight weeks to prep for them'. I would need some time to get back in the swing of things, get back on a regular training regimen, look at who I'm going to be fighting, decide on a time and then zero in on my eight to ten weeks to get ready for a specific opponent.
"The fight game is something I know well and one thing I'm not going to do is rush the preparation. One of my favorite quotes is from Abe Lincoln, he said - 'If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend seven of them sharpening my axe'. I live by this. It's all about the process, everything in life is that way. That's how I'll end up approaching my last fight, with a really intelligent approach."
For now, Franklin's eyes are only on his business and a plan of 'growth and expansion' in the coming years. He's finalizing plans to open a second store in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles very soon, and long term he hopes to bring the ZeLin brand to other cities like his hometown of Cincinnati. Once the former middleweight king feels comfortable enough to hand over the keys to his kingdom and the business is running smoothly in his absence, then Franklin will turn his attention back to fighting.
For now, however, Franklin can at least temporarily change his nickname from 'Ace' to the 'Juice King of California'.