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MMA fighter Rich Franklin flanked by his rides, a 1967 Chevy Camaro and a 1974 Ford Bronco. (Rich Franklin/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail/Rich Franklin/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
MMA fighter Rich Franklin flanked by his rides, a 1967 Chevy Camaro and a 1974 Ford Bronco. (Rich Franklin/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail/Rich Franklin/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

My car: Rich Franklin

Fighter's cars come up aces Add to ...

Rich "Ace" Franklin

  • The car: 1967 Chevy Camaro
  • Profession: Mixed martial arts fighter
  • Age: 37
  • Hometown: Cincinnati

Upcoming

  • Fights Cung Lee and UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas

Notable achievements

  • UFC debut fight was in April, 2003; crowned the UFC middleweight champion at UFC 53; his record is 28 wins, 6 losses with one no contest.
  • Before becoming a full-time MMA fighter, he was teacher; he has a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s degree in education from the University of Cincinnati
  • Got his nickname “Ace” from his resemblance to Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura

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The shoulder injury that sidelined him has healed and former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin is heading back into the octagon. This time, his much-anticipated bout is against Cung Le at UFC 148 in July.

Whenever he steps into the cage, the MMA fighter is a fierce and tough competitor who is built solid as a rock. He looks for the same qualities in his rides, too. Franklin’s fleet of vehicles include a 2007 Toyota Tundra truck, a 1967 Chevy Camaro and a 2003 Harley-Davidson Road Glide motorcycle.

Why did you buy a Tundra?

I’m a Midwest guy so I like my four-wheel-drive vehicles.

I’ve had a lot of cars, but I’m a minimalist. A lot of times when you’re a ‘celebrity,’ people expect you to drive really expensive cars. I’m not into Lamborghinis. It’s a waste of money. I can’t spend that kind of money on a car. I can’t take that Midwest out of me.

The main reason why I have the Tundra – I need a car that has a capability of pulling my tractor. Since we are talking about mechanical vehicles, I have a Kubota tractor. If you take the tractor and the trailer you need to pull it, you’re looking at about 10,000 pounds. You need a truck that has that kind of capability.

I’ve historically been a Jeep guy. I had a Jeep almost my whole life, up until a few years ago. I’m all about the winch, the lift, the rock-sliders – all that kind of stuff. That’s my true passion. Take the top and the doors off the Jeep in the summertime and it’s good to go.

I run this fine line in my life between need and want. I have a daily driver, a classic car and a motorcycle. What more could a person ask for?

I remember when I was a kid playing with my Hot Wheels. I’d always choose eight or 10 of them. But in reality, when you own that many cars you’re paying 10 grand a year in insurance. You can’t drive that many cars consistently to make it worth your money.

The cars I pick – the 4WD vehicles, the Jeep – I’m one of those guys that would almost have the shot-gun rack in the back. I don’t. But I’m that guy.

Are you mechanically inclined?

I’m a man’s man. I can fight. I can fix some stuff on the car – not a lot.

I’ve replaced radiators and redone cooling systems, water pumps, brakes and simple stuff like that. I’m not going to tear apart a carburetor or anything like that. If it gets too complex, I take it to the shop.

Why did you buy the Harley?

It was my dad’s.

It’s an ‘old man’s bike’ – it’s a touring bike, but it was my father’s. He passed away and that was left to me.

What else have you owned?

I’ve had some really cool cars. I had a ’72 BMW full-size Bavaria four-speed. It was my first stick. I remember my dad taking me out in rush hour for a baptism by fire.

Once I graduated from college, I bought my ’98 Jeep Wrangler Sahara edition. That was the love of my life. I did so much aftermarket work to it.

Last year, I got rid of my Jeep and I bought a ’74 Bronco. I bought it because I wanted a new Jeep-like car.

I thought I’ve had a Jeep for 15-20 years and I don’t want the same car. So I got this Bronco and then after I bought it I realized it was a classic and I wasn’t ever going to drive it like my Jeep so I ended up selling it. I had to sell it because I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to waste things. I don’t like to waste money on cars I don’t need.

I have a ’67 Camaro ... It has a 502 big block in it. I haven’t driven it, yet. I just bought it.

I got a good deal on it. I love it. I have one nice classic, one daily driver, and my motorcycle for sunny days. Aside from that. I don’t need anything else.

What was your first car?

The first car I ever bought was a 1978 Mustang II.

It was the bastard years of Mustang when they made crappy cars. It was a little four-cylinder, white with a baby blue interior. I was working part-time at McDonalds cooking and I bought it from a deaf guy. I went to his house and we had to do our negotiating writing things on paper. I bought the car for $153. It was $153 because he had a case of oil in the trunk that he wanted three bucks for.

I called my dad and said, “I bought this car for $153,” and, based on the price, my dad was like, “Oh God, what did you do?”

But it actually ended up being a pretty good car. All I had to do was get new tires and get it aligned. We sunk about 800 bucks into it and it was fine. Then I went to Napa and bought new hub caps and all this corny stuff – I spent a few hundred dollars on it.

What’s your best driving story ever?

I’ve got tons of them. I’ve had plenty of close calls in a car. I’ve probably had three near-death experiences. I’ve laid two bikes down, I had a near-death driving experience in my truck, and I’ve driven off a mountain on my quad-runner.

I was at this charity event in Kentucky on this ATV ride.… We’re on a mountain, going 40-50 mph on these clods. At one point, I turned around for a quick glimpse at my partner behind me and the trail takes a 90-degree turn to the left.

I try to ride it out and I couldn’t. I went right over the embankment. It was so steep when I came out of the ravine I had to use the roots of the trees to climb out. I flipped head-over-heels three times and landed in a seated position kissing a tree with the front of my helmet.

I wore shorts that day and I was shredded from mid-thigh down. I looked like The Passion of the Christ, if you’ve seen that movie. Nothing broken. I truly believe the hand of God or one of his protective angels were watching over me that day because I believe I’m living on borrowed time at this point, but I have a purpose for being here.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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