Rich Franklin is ecstatic about ONE Championship’s return to United States prime-time television, and he believes North American fans will be hooked once “ONE on TNT I” airs live on Wednesday, 7 April.
The man known as “Ace” has intimate knowledge of both the U.S. fan base and ONE Championship’s roster. He became a multiple-time Middleweight Mixed Martial Arts World Champion in North America’s biggest promotion during the 2000s and then joined ONE as a Vice President in 2014.
Since then, Franklin has traveled across Asia to comment on ONE’s live broadcasts, scout up-and-coming mixed martial arts talent for the ONE Warrior Series developmental league, and film the related reality show, “Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series.”
In this exclusive interview, Franklin previews the biggest matchups at “ONE on TNT I,” breaks down potential strategies for the fighters, and more.
ONE Championship: You’ve known Demetrious Johnson for a long time, and you’ve also followed Adriano Moraes’ career closely. What are your initial thoughts on their main event ONE Flyweight World Title clash?
Rich Franklin: DJ could have entered ONE demanding a World Title shot immediately, but he chose to run a gauntlet of top-level fighters in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix. In my opinion, he is the GOAT! But Adriano is a serious threat to that title – he has the most finishes, submissions, and wins in that weight class.
ONE: North American fans know how talented DJ is, but most don’t have that level of familiarity with Adriano. What makes Adriano so dangerous and such a threat?
RF: I’ve watched Adriano improve every time he competes. He has been able to solve the riddle of the losses against both Geje [Eustaquio] and Kairat [Akhmetov]. The day DJ signed with ONE, Adriano knew they were on an inevitable collision course, and he has been training for that day ever since.
ONE: What intrigues you most about this matchup?
RF: This match will be very cerebral on both sides. One-hundred percent of Adriano’s finishes in ONE are by submission, so I am curious to see the game plan DJ brings to the Circle. DJ is no slouch on the ground either. So, will he take what I see as the path of least resistance and keep the fight standing, or will he go for the takedown? After all, Adriano is 12 centimeters taller. But then again, historically, he is not a finisher with his hands.
ONE: The co-main event will feature Eddie Alvarez going up against rising young star Iuri Lapicus. How do you see this match going?
RF: I don’t expect to see this fight go outside of the first round. Both of them are well-rounded and capable of finishing on the ground or the feet. Eddie has 15 first-round finishes, and Iuri has 13. If the fans blink during this fight, they may miss it.
ONE: Knowing his aspirations to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion, do you feel Eddie is in a must-win situation at “ONE on TNT I”?
RF: I rarely call anything a “must-win,” but I will say a loss here would dig Eddie into a hole he may not want to take the time to dig out of at his age.
ONE: For many North American fans, this is the first time they will watch Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon compete. From your perspective, what makes him one of the world’s most exciting Muay Thai fighters?
RF: I love the way Rodtang moves forward and uses his hands with his Muay Thai, especially when he is wearing mixed martial arts gloves. The smaller gloves give heavy-handed fighters like him an advantage in the Circle, and he does an amazing job of body-snatching that liver.
ONE: What must Danial Williams do in order to defeat Rodtang?
RF: Danial needs to keep Rodtang from moving forward. Once Rodtang finds his range, he immediately begins going upstairs and downstairs with the hands with constant pressure.
ONE: Final question: What are you looking forward to the most on 7 April?
RF: The U.S. audience is familiar with DJ and Eddie, but they are going to see the talent of the ONE roster and how exciting the organization is. We may see quite a few converts in April!