|Rich Franklin landing a right on Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99. (UFC)
With a lukewarm acceptance of the sport in Vancouver, the men who will headline the first Canadian UFC show on the West Coast took time Friday to defend their livelihood.
Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell and Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin will headline UFC 115 — a show that was almost cancelled due to sanctioning concerns.
An eleventh-hour deal that sees mixed martial arts get is two-year trial in Vancouver eventually saved the show — the fastest sellout in UFC history.
But justifying the sport — something that has become too commonplace in Canada with Ontario refusing to sanction MMA — was back on the agenda when the pair addressed the media Friday.
“I’ve had the pleasure of fighting in several different countries and most recently I fought in Germany and it was almost as if I’d gone back in time 15 years ago and you kept hearing phrases like human cockfighting and stuff like that,” said Franklin, a former middleweight champ who is 25-5 in the sport.
“I say to the people that cast those sorts of criticisms on the sport that sometimes they’re just not educated enough about what we do.
“People talk about there not being enough rules. If you actually saw how complex the rule system is for this sport, you’d be surprised. Referees come in the locker rooms and often bring the rule sheet with them and it’s like a three or four page affidavit they bring in there to recap and make sure you don’t have any questions.”
The former math teacher says those who criticize his occupation haven’t done their homework.
“I think once someone becomes educated on the sport they see this is a physical chess match,” says Franklin “Chuck and I have spent the last eight to ten weeks prepping specifically for each other. I spend many hours a day prepping for this one night on June 12 and he’s the same.
“Once they see us and the way we conduct ourselves as athletes, they’re going to be a bit surprised because we’re going to break the perception of what they think we are.”
The pair are pioneers in the sport have seen it grow in acceptance.
Liddell says there are some people who will never embrace the sport — and he’s OK with that.
“If you don’t like combat sports at all, there’s nothing we can say to you,” said Liddell. “This sport is safer than boxing, safer than kickboxing and you’re not going to get as much permanent damage.”
But Liddell admits answering questions that were common over a decade ago, gets tiring.
“It’s like going back in time,” he says.
“’These guys are barbaric, they’re Neanderthals,’ I’ve got a college degree and he’s a math teacher for ----- sake.
UFC 115 is available in Canada on pay-per-view.