PFL's Glaico Franca doesn't know whether he'll return to the UFC, but is happy with life outside of it

It’s been two-and-a-half years, but Glaico Franca still remembers the details of the day when he found out he was no longer a UFC fighter.

The exact date was Oct. 26, 2016. He remembers, because it was about a month after his UFC Fight Night 95 meeting with Gregor Gillespie. Franca dropped a unanimous decision to Gillespie – which, paired with a decision loss to James Vick earlier that year, made for a two-fight skid. It was a little more than one year after a win over Fernanda Bruno saw France crowned the 155-pound winner of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4.”

Franca recalls the time of the day in which he got the news, too. It was morning, before practice. His head coach, Marcelo Brigadeiro, who’s also his manager, was the one to break it to him.

“We sat down, and he said, ‘I have something to tell you: Unfortunately, the UFC ended your contract,’” Franca said.

Ask any fighter who’s been in this same spot to explain how it feels, and you’ll get all types of answers. Some will tell you they were in shock. Some will tell you they had kind of seen it coming. Some will tell you they were hoping for another chance. Some will tell you they were actually relieved. Some will tell you they didn’t even think about it that much, to be honest.

Sometimes, despite how much life we know there is outside of the UFC, you’ll hear about a “what now?” kind of moment. These fighters had, after all, made it to what is widely perceived as the pinnacle of their chosen profession. What do you do when you make it to the final step of a set of stairs, only to find out it just … kind of ends there?

But, for Franca, there was no “what now” moment.

The first thing he did was ask his manager to reply to the UFC’s email directly. The reason was that he wanted to thank them. He’d always dreamed of not only making it to the UFC, he said, but to do it via “TUF.” His octagon stint was brief, but it was enough to launch his name beyond his local community. Franca was appreciative of the opportunity and just wanted to make sure they knew it.

After – as in, immediately after – the message was sent?

“I trained like a monster,” Franca said.

Franca (20-5) knew that being cut was a possibility after the loss to Gillespie – who, incidentally, has gone on to finish every opponent that he’s crossed paths with in the octagon thus far. After a particularly grueling cut down to 155 pounds, however, Franca did hold out hope that the UFC might offer him a chance to prove himself at welterweight.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. But coming to terms with that was no problem for Franca, who had no interest in moping over the past.

“I think, in MMA and life, there’s no time for that; you shouldn’t sulk over things that happened,” Franca said. “Some things are up to you, and some aren’t. At that moment, what was up to me? Moving up to 170 and fighting better, because I’d have less weight to cut. I talked to my team, and that’s what we did. We changed what was wrong and went from there.”

There’s no telling what would have happened if he’d had that second chance in the UFC. As far as what’s happened outside of it since, though, the proof is in the pudding.

Franca would go back into the cage the following January, at local promotion Aspera FC 49. He’d finish four opponents there before making his way to Pancrase, where he became welterweight champion after two fights. Then, Franca joined PFL’s second season, which he kicked off with a first-round submission of Gamzat Khiramagomedov at PFL 2019, Week 1 earlier this month.

That fight against Gillespie was Franca’s last at lightweight. It was also the last loss of his professional career. But a weight change isn’t all there was to Franca’s transition from that raw “TUF” winner to a streaking Pancrase champion. There was a lot of life in between, too.

“I’ve evolved in my professional and in my personal life – they go hand-in-hand, I truly believe that,” Franca said. “I improved my English. I spent some time in the U.S. training wrestling. I went to Japan, where I’d never been, and I did some tough fights there. I had a desire and a dream of fighting in Pancrase and meeting Japan.

“Technically, I evolved a lot. I evolved a lot in my striking. I already had a good ground game, but I improved it even more. My wrestling, I’ve improved my transitions and I learned a lot of new stuff. Technically speaking, I’m a lot better than I was in 2016. I’ve lived more, too, … and I’m very happy, you know? I’m very happy at PFL. But, most importantly, I’m a guy who’s happy doing what he does.”

Thoroughly satisfied with the present and the road he’s taken to get here, the 28-year-old Brazilian is careful not to let his mind wander too far into the future – more specifically, into a future that might involve him becoming a millionaire. Raised “in the real world” by his two teacher parents, Franca has learned to stay grounded and focus on what’s tangible and within his reach.

And, at least for now, that $1 million check that PFL notoriously awards each of its divisional winners isn’t.

“I don’t think about the million because that, until you make it to the final and win, is not concrete,” Franca said, “What’s concrete is my next fight, so I’m awaiting my next opponent to be decided. I think about my next fight. It’s step by step.”

Franca’s approach to his future within PFL, it turns out, is quite in line with the one he holds in regards to the possibilities of an eventual future outside of it.

At one point, even as recently as after his last Pancrase win, Franca says he had aspirations to return to the UFC. But, after watching one of his teammates compete in the inaugural season of PFL last year, he liked what he saw. His good impression has been confirmed by what he’s experienced, personally, since officially hopping on board.

Franca really likes PFL, and he believes the feeling is mutual. At least for the time being, that’s all that he needs to know.

“I won’t say I will never want to go back to the UFC,” Franca said. “Like I said, I like PFL and I like the UFC. What I can say is that I’m doing great, and I’m very happy with PFL, and let’s see what will happen this year before we think about the next step.

“For now, PFL is my home, I’m very happy in it, and I’m not thinking about finding a new one.”

For more on the upcoming PFL schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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