Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva won his UFC title in 2006 by dominating and finishing then-champ Rich Franklin. Then, in 2007, he beat up "Ace" even worse in their rematch.
So, you’d think that Franklin may have a bit of a chip on his shoulder with regards to "The Spider." But in fact, Franklin recently told Submission Radio that his "heart bleeds" for Silva after the Brazilian tested positive multiple times for banned performance-enhancing drugs. That said, Franklin also believes these drug-test failures will replace Silva’s legacy of winning.
"I feel bad for him. Honestly," Franklin said. "Anderson’s had this long run and then of course when something like this happens the fans are going to start asking, ‘Well, how long has he been on this stuff?’ And for him to have such a run the way that he did and to come back from an injury the way that he did, it’s just, it’s a shame to think that that is going to tarnish his reputation — like, that that’s what he’ll leave his career on. Even if he doesn’t leave now, that’s the overriding factor that’s going to be remembered. Much like Lance Armstrong."
The record-breaking former Tour de France champ was dogged by allegations of doping for years, and eventually admitted to it after years of vehement denials. Franklin says that questions of how long Silva used banned PEDs will linger in the minds of fans forever.
"You tend to forget the accomplishments that the guy had, and so I feel bad for him in that sense," Franklin said.
"And then you start wondering things like ‘Well, how long was he on that?’ Like, because there are guys in this sport, they know how to play the system, they know how to take their chemicals and beat the test somehow. And I don’t know how. I don’t know how they do it, like with masking agents and I’m not saying that that’s the case with Anderson, but if people are going to start questioning that and wondering that."
The Ohio fighter also acknowledged he wondered if Silva used banned substances back when Silva took him out twice.
"To say that thought never crossed my mind would be a lie," Franklin said.
"And I don’t know. I don’t know if he was using it back when he fought me or not. Regardless, even if he did, I’m not sure it would have made a difference and I don’t want to blame a loss on that kind of stuff or anything."
Silva’s future in fighting already was uncertain after his UFC 183 decision win over Nick Diaz. Now, he faces possible fines and a long suspension for his failed drug tests.
As for the 40-year-old Franklin’s status as an active competitor, he’s still undecided. Franklin has not fought since losing to Cung Le in November 2012, though he still is under contract with the UFC.
Recently, he’s spent a lot of time with business projects and as an executive for Asian MMA promotion ONE FC Championship. The fighter says he’s keeping fit with regular training, but knows that time is running out.
"Let me just tell you what has changed since the last time we spoke: pretty much nothing," he said. "I basically train every single day of my life. I’m not spending as much time training now as I would if I were getting ready for a fight obviously, but you know I’m still putting in somewhere between 10 and 15 work hours a week in the gym. Whether I’m doing conditioning, or I’m in [the gym] actually working with a boxing or a kickboxing coach and doing pad work or sparring or grappling or whatever it is that I’m doing, I’m still putting this time in. So you know I have those days.
"Like, I’m training all the time and there’s that part of me like ‘Man, I’m training all the time, why not?’ But again, my responsibilities that I have in other avenues and, like I said before, man, that clock is just tick-tick-tick-ticking away. So you know, I’m very driven on the job that I have right now with ONE Championship and it would definitely take something special to pull me away from that. But I’m still open to the possibility of doing my last fight."