Rich "Ace" Franklin
- The car: 1967 Chevy Camaro
- Profession: Mixed martial arts fighter
- Age: 37
- Hometown: Cincinnati
- Fights Cung Lee and UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas
- 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
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.