Rich reward in cage

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Rich Franklin is no stranger to the main-event spotlight.

But the former UFC middleweight champ, who has been see-sawing through weight classes of late, says the thrill of stepping into the cage with the world's top fighters never loses its lustre.

"My prime motivation going into this fight is to put on a good show for the fans and win," says Franklin, who will take on former UFC light-heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort in the main event at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 in Dallas.

"When you have a great opponent like Vitor, you better be motivated."

While Franklin is a household name among the new crop of UFC fans, Belfort hasn't fought for the world's biggest fight club since losing a split decision to Tito Ortiz nearly five years ago. In that time, Belfort has fought in Pride and the now-defunct Affliction, where he is coming off two impressive wins.

He was the UFC's light-heavyweight champ in 2004 and first appeared in the big show as a 19-year-old prodigy at UFC 12. The 32-year-old's scoresheet includes wins over Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, Heath Herring and Matt Lindland.

Franklin knows he'll have his hands full in what should be a stand-up brawl.

To get onto Belfort's dance card, Franklin had to agree to a catchweight fight at 195 lbs. -- between middleweight and light-heavyweight.

"Vitor asked for this fight at 195. I don't know why. I am OK with it as long as I get to fight the best fighters," says Franklin, who has a respectable 25-4 record.

Franklin, who hopes to find a permanent home in the 205- lb. class, also says he's not looking past Belfort.

WILL FIGHT ANYBODY

"I take it one fight at a time and just want to get the next win," he says. "I will fight whoever the UFC asks me to."

The 34-year-old high-school-teacher-turned-scrapper says nearly a decade of pro fighting has forced him to get creative in the way he challenges his body.

"I think it is more of a grind now. You have to be more creative to push yourself so that training does not get stale," he says.

"I do things like go hiking or hill running for cardio instead of just running on a treadmill."

Known for his tough training camps and showing up at weigh-ins with spar-sponsored black eyes, Franklin is in the tail end of what he calls another strong stretch of preparation.

"Training camp is going good. I trained out in Seattle with Matt Hume and am now back in Cincinnati to finish up training with my coaches here," says the Ohio native.

"I did not train with Anderson (Silva) this time and I hope not to have a black eye at the weigh-ins, but that always seems to happen."

UFC 103 is available in Canada on pay-per-view.

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


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