Franklin happily accepts ‘unlikeliest champion’ tag

Former UFC middleweight titleholder Rich Franklin says he has no qualms about being called the “unlikeliest” ever champion in the promotion’s history after announcing his retirement from the sport on Monday.

Franklin, a former high school teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s degree in education, won the middleweight strap in 2005 when the sport was yet to reach maturity.

The Cincinnati native helped change stereotypical beliefs about the sport and its athletes. However, he admits that his lack of athletic prowess as a teen does mean his legacy is slightly different from many of the UFC’s other legends.

“I wouldn’t disagree with that. I think if you were to have shown that to my high school football coach or half the people I went to high school with and they would say ‘what a perfect title’,” Franklin told the UFC website.

“I didn’t even start for my high school football team. Yeah, I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but as a young kid, I wasn’t a big kid and strong, and I basically grew vertically a little bit, behind the curve of everybody else.

“I was very skinny graduating high school and I hit a late growth spurt in college, but to see somebody basically be a third-string high school football player or a third-string in any sport to all of a sudden become a world champion is very unlikely. You get my approval on it.”

Franklin’s last ever fight in November 2012 finished with former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le winning via knockout.

The 40-year-old will continue to work in the sport as an ambassador for Asia-based promotion One FC.