VAUGHT: UFC star likes 'Cats

With the soaring popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), don't be surprised to see former champion Rich Franklin back in Rupp Arena next basketball season. He can get tickets, too, because he's become friends with Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart after meeting him through a mutual friend in Lexington.

"He's a fan of the UFC, too," said Franklin, who lives and trains in Cincinnati but had fought early in his career in Lexington as part of the Kentucky Fighting Challenge. "I went to UC (University of Cincinnati), but I had never been to a college basketball game my entire time in school.

"I was born in northern Kentucky, but I was not a huge basketball fan or UK fan or anything like that. But when Mitch offered me a chance to come down to a game, I knew that would be great."

He got to sit courtside at his first game -- and loved every minute of it. He came back a second time to see UK play Florida. "That was really a big game and there was not room for me on the court, so Mitch gave me his personal family seats in the lower bowl (arena). I had a great time with great people around me at that game. The UK fans are very, very special. They are as passionate as the UFC fans," Franklin said.

So will he be back to see what new coach Billy Gillispie can do?

"If they invited me back, I will be back. And I hope they do invite me back," Franklin said. "The only sport I really put time into watching is football because it is a weekly thing. With everything else like basketball and baseball, you have games every night and it would just drive my wife nuts between that and my fighting. You have to cut the line off somewhere. But I loved watching Kentucky play basketball. I could get used to that."

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