UFC star to visit Quantico, Walter Reed

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 2, 2008 13:58:36 EDT

Rich “Ace” Franklin, a popular star of the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit, is no stranger to the Marine Corps.

In fact, his two older brothers became leathernecks and Franklin considered joining the military before attending college, he said.

“I remember visiting Parris Island as a kid for my brother’s graduation from boot camp,” Franklin said. “Watching the Marine Corps band was probably one of the most impressive things I had ever seen at that point in my life.”

On May 23, Franklin will renew those roots, visiting Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to see the troops and check out the Martial Arts Center of Excellence at Quantico.

“My career took me to a place in professional fighting, but part of me feels like it’s a civic duty and a chance for me to give back,” Franklin said.

Franklin, coming off an April 19 win at UFC 83, said he is curious how the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program compares with the Modern Army Combatives Program, which he tried during a visit to Fort Hood, Texas.

He also said he is looking forward to his first trip to Walter Reed, although he admits previous visits with wounded troops — including one at Camp Lejeune, N.C. — were emotional.

“I just didn’t prepare myself for what I saw,” Franklin said. “That’ll help me for what I might see when I’m at Walter Reed.”

Franklin credits his interest in mixed martial arts to Shawn Rafferty, a friend from his hometown of Cincinnati who taught Franklin some Thai boxing moves he had learned while in the Corps.

“We were sparring one day, and he started doing some things I had never seen before,” Franklin said. “It was kind of the beginning of my martial arts training.”