In the latest edition of the ‘Inside The Ultimate Fighter’ podcast, former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin talked about his extended break from the octagon after his defeat to Vitor Belfort, and his imminent return at UFC 115 on June 12th against Chuck Liddell.

Franklin says the reason for his eight month absence was due to being physically, and in particular mentally exhausted after a grueling series of fights with stars like Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort over a nine month period.

During his layoff Franklin had a hernia operation which kept him from training for eight weeks, but since then he’s come back feeling, “mentally and physically refreshed,” and put in a 10 week training camp in preparation for his upcoming fight.

As for the bout with Liddell, which headlines the UFC 115 event next weekend, Franklin is only too happy to get the opportunity to fight one of the biggest names in the sport.

“It’s Chuck. Chuck’s already a UFC Hall of Famer and UFC legend.  He’s got a who’s who of victories. Of course recently he’s had a little bit of a rougher road, but it’s Chuck Liddell.”

Franklin is also expecting to face an improved version of Liddell after seeing how he looked during his brief spell filling in for Tito Ortiz as a coach opposite the former champion on TUF season 11.

“He was in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in in his entire career, even the younger Chuck.”

That fact doesn’t seem to intimidate the 35 year-old however. “It’s a good opportunity, and I like the matchup,” he says.

Franklin is still best known for his fights at 185lbs where he successfully defended his title twice before Anderson Silva turned up to rule the division, and he confesses that though he now considers the light-heavyweight division home, he’s not trying to compete with some of the other stars of the division in terms of his physical stature.

“I realize that I’m just not going to be a big guy in the 205lb weight class,” he says, revealing that his walk-around weight is now around 215lbs – just seven pounds heavier than during his run at middleweight.

With some very large light-heavyweights currently populating the division that would likely be an intimidating prospect for him, but the veteran fighter who’s heading into his 17th UFC fight, he welcomes the challenge.

“I like swimming with the sharks I guess you could say,” he admits.

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Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.

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