On Saturday, June 13, Rich "Ace" Franklin and the "Axe Murder" Wanderlei Silva will face off in what is bound to be a war of weapons of mass destruction.
This is a fight that will be highly anticipated and more than likely explosive. It won't be a bore fest.
Both men have fought the very best the world of mixed martial arts has ever seen. Both men have emerged victorious on more occasions than not. Neither fighter has ever been known for slow fights, or questionable drive.
These fighters possess deadly striking, mixed with star power, and deep followings in the mixed martial arts community. There is no reason these two should not step into the cage and test their skills and hearts against the other.
That being said, why are they fighting now? Shouldn't this have already happened? Is there anything to gain for either fighter at this point?
At this juncture in their careers both men are on vastly different paths.
Franklin has abandoned the middleweight division. Now he is staking his claim to become a contender to the light heavyweight title.
Wanderlei, seemingly on the downside of his career, is turning his back on light heavyweight to hopefully lengthen his tenure in the sport at middleweight. Wandy has lost four of five. He has his back against the wall and more the likely must win to remain relevant in the sport.
At UFC 99 these men will meet at catch weight of 195. One on his way down, and one standing firm at a higher weight. No matter who wins, there are burning question as to how the match affects their ranking and standing in their respective divisions.
What does Wandy stand to gain by beating a man who was forced to vacate the division he is now heading to? If he loses, he may very see a similar call for retirement not unlike what Chuck Liddell is now enduring. There really is no up side to this fight for him—other than his genuine love for a war.
Franklin has left the middleweight division in his rear view, focusing now on conquering a division many feel he is better suited for. Again, Wandy has been asked to step down to middleweight to improve his career. So even if Rich wins, is there a benefit to beating a guy who just left his current division? If he loses, does it affect his standing at light heavyweight?
Wandy is one of the most game fighters ever known. There is no question he just wants to put on a great show with a great opponent, now matter where it takes place.
On the other hand Rich is a very calculated and deliberate individual. He pursues angles in his career that will move him forward. It is surprising that he took this fight that really has no implications for that forward movement.
In the end the answer lies in the fans. Perhaps the fight doesn't make much sense when considering how it effects these men and their respective divisions. Perhaps the big picture is hazy at this particular moment in time.
Maybe, just for old times sake, the fans are just going to get a war out of two of the greatest fighters they have known. Sometimes belts, weight classes, rankings, and logic are overrated. This is one of those times.
Sometimes what the fan forgets when looking for something special in the world of MMA is the fact that we watch to see a good fight. Simple as that. No matter who is fighting. No matter what is on the line.
All fans of MMA at some point did not know the first thing about a kimura or who the Gracies were. They learned over time and by their loyal following.
At some point they began following the sport for love of the fight, then built knowledge of the game, and followed the fighters they came to adore because of their fights.
Then they become experts.
Eventually many fans sophisticate themselves into thinking they know so much about the sport they can see into the future. Then they become blind to the reason they started watching in the first place. They focus on the hype, not the truth. Quite an evolution.
Consider current middleweight champ Anderson Silva. At this point, all hype. What fans fell in love with him for is now gone, erased by mediocrity and complacency. He could defend that belt a million times and if all the fights go as his last two have, no one will care.
Now we have two fighters with nothing on the line, no title shot implications, no immediate gratification for victory. Funny thing is these two fighters will give fans what Anderson Silva has not, regardless of his title: A fight.
Looking back at the question of why are these two fighting now, what is there to prove? What is the point?
Fans will get their answer on June 13. Fans will be reminded once more of why they love this sport.
In the words of Rage Against the Machine, "What better place than here, what better time than now?!"
Its a hard thing to convince yourself to spend money on a pay per view that won't even see a belt put on the line. Then again, who needs belts? Give me a barn-burner by two historic fighters with everything to lose and nothing tangible to gain.
Give me a reminder of why I tune in every month. I'll take this over an Anderson Silva title defense any day of the week. These two are fighting purely to fight, just to bang, with no instant reward and no guarantees. Only the reward of victory.
That is rare indeed these days.
This article was originally published on Inside Fights. Todd is a staff writer there.