’PrizeFighter’ Final: Ricardo Franco’s Journey to the Title
On June 8th in the Indigo at the O2 in London, England, Ricardo Franco will enter the BKB™ ring one half of the ‘PrizeFighter’ finals. Opposite of James Connelly, Franco is looking to recreate what he accomplished in the semi-finals, eyeing yet another explosive knockout.
Just weeks away, the ‘PrizeFighter’ tournament will come to a close. The finale will feature James Connelly, and unbeaten Ricardo ‘Bon Bon’ Franco, who’s coming off of a massive first round knockout at BKB 16 this past March 30th.
For Franco, this is more than simply winning a tournament, which he’s confident he will win. This is a world title shot. This is a time for ‘Rico’ to prove he’s one of the best in bare-knuckle boxing.
Left with “no doubt”, Ricardo Franco is certain he will walk away the tournament champion, £10,000 richer, with the Jack Broughton trophy, and a world title shot at the end of it all. Not only does the tournament finalist predict another knockout victory, but he foresees himself dethroning Jimmy Sweeney, should he defend his title successfully against Edgar Puerta at BKB 17, becoming the “new king” of BKB.
“There’s no doubt in my mind. I will 100% win this ‘prizefighter’ tournament. There’s no what if/buts/maybes... I respect James a lot as a fighter, but I’m going in there June 8th to take his head clean off. I predict another KO... and after the tournament, I will fight for the world title, and once again, I’m super confident this is my time to become the ‘new king’ and take that belt... I’ve never been so hungry and ready before, this is all happening for a reason. Once I win this world title, I would love to go back into MMA and mix it up a bit in-between BKB fights, which is a great thing that Jim and Joe (promotions co-owners) have done, which is let you complete in MMA, as well as bare-knuckle boxing under their promotion.”
On March 30th, where Franco scored his highlight reel knockout finish, he says the finishing blow was part of a combination he had focused on and drilled for a long time. Reflecting on his performance, it looks as though his persistence paid off.
“I’ve been drilling this combination for a long time now in general, as it works well for me, but for that fight, I knew Connor was a really good technical boxer - long and quick, so the plan was to get inside and be aggressive. I drilled that same combination around 30/40 times warming up, so it was mentally in my mind and came natural. The semi-finals couldn’t have gone any better for me.”
In a tournament such as the ‘PrizeFighter’, it’s important for the fighters to make it through to the next round having absorbed as little damage as possible. This tournament has suffered the loss of one of its fighters from sustaining an injury in the first round, but for Franco, he essentially left BKB 16 untouched.
“It’s anyone’s target to come off a semi-final undamaged, even though it’s hard in this game, but yeah, I managed it again, so I’m fresh and ready to go for the finals 100%.”
Connelly, who will be Franco’s opponent on June 8th, is 1-1 in the tournament. Having lost in the opening round, due to injury, his opponent could not continue on, leaving him with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Successful in the semi-finals, Connelly now finds himself back in the running for the money, trophy, and tournament title.
Ricardo gives his thoughts on Connelly being in the finals, coming back after a loss, and defeating ‘Smudger’ Smith: “James lost his first against Chapman, and I’m shocked to see him in the finals. I thought it would of been ‘Smudger’. The difference is I’m a lot hungrier to win this tournament more than anyone.” ‘Bon Bon’ continues, giving his predictions for his performance at the up-and-coming BKB 17 pay-per-view. “Same as the last show, you’ll see fast and explosive pace. I 100% believe I’m on a different level to most guys in BKB, and certainly training on one. I’m definitely not underestimating James, as he’s a game, tough lad, and he’s here to fight, but there’s no chance of him keeping up with my pace.”
Growing up, it wasn’t all confidence as you see in Ricardo Franco now. Thanks to his brother, an early life training partner, you could say, he helped shape ‘Rico’ into a rougher, more confident version of himself.
Once stepping his foot inside the door of MMA, it was more than something to do as a hobby, but rather a life grafting experience. From the early age of 16, mixed martial arts became a dream job and love for Franco, who has now quit his job to train and compete fulltime.
A dream come true, you could say.
“Growing up as a kid with a brother only a few years older than me was great, as we use to tussle and wrestle most days, so he definitely roughened me up a bit.” Franco continued, “I wasn’t that confident when I was at school as I just use to follow the pack but since training in mixed martial arts, it’s completely changed my life. My mind and actions are super controlled, and makes life situations a lot easier.”
“I’ve worked and grafted full time since I was 16, and that’s when I started training. The more I trained the more I wanted to train fulltime. I’ve sacrificed my whole life to the sport now, and quit my job about a year ago, now training full time twice a day. With massive support from my partner Shannon, she’s helped me through a lot and I wouldn’t be where I am without her. After sacrificing 10 weeks of training camps to Thailand without seeing her, then losing a fight, and she’s still there saying everything’s alright and I’ve got your back. That’s a strong relationship and support right there!”
Everyone needs someone or something that motivates them to train, go to work, or do any day-to-day duties, and It’s no different for Franco.
His biggest inspiration is his late mother, who passed on four years ago. At first destroyed, left with no option, Franco and his older brother used each other to build strength and carry on in what was perhaps the lowest (mentally and physically) time of their lives.
“My biggest inspiration and motivator is my Mother, who sadly passed away over 4 years ago.” Franco paused, then continued. “This was the worst thing a person could ever hear, and completely destroyed me inside and mentally. I was at the lowest points you could ever go. Me and my brother have been in that dark hole, which together, we’ve pushed through and come out stronger than ever. Every single day I think of her and know she’s watching me. I will always remember her saying I will make it big one day on the big stage! So winning this ‘prizefighter’ for me will be very emotional, and when I win this world title after, it will make me feel like I’ve competed what I wanted in life. the rest is a bonus.”
In addition to the drive his mother and brother provide him, another huge factor in Franco’s success is former UFC competitor, Danny Mitchell, Ricardo’s head coach.
“Another person who motivate and inspires me is my good friend and head coach Danny Mitchell. After knowing what he’s achieved and done in his life, it’s insane, he needs to write a book about his life. But hanging around with the guy most days keeps me in a very positive mindset, which makes me train 100% everyday, and everyone who I train with and AVT team motivates me even more. Best teammates to be with.”
Having found love for combat sports at an early age, and having competed in MMA, different grappling disciplines, boxing, etc. Franco always wanted to try his hand at bare-knuckle boxing. At first, Jim Freeman Dove contacted his head coach, Mitchell for a fight under the England based promotion. Unable to accept their offer because of a horrific accident, Mitchell put forth Franco’s name in place of his own. The rest is history.
‘I got into combat sport just starting with hitting the bag and boxing, then moved on to grappling/MMA. I competed in over 60 MMA fights. I’ve always wanted to try BKB before I stopped fighting, and it soon came around. Jim Freeman contacted Danny Mitchell to fight, but couldn’t due to personal problems, so he put my name forward and I’ve found a new love.”
The finals are set.
On June 8th in the Indigo at the O2 Arena in London, England, Ricardo Franco will take on James Connelly in the ‘PrizeFighter’ Finals. Who do you think walks away the tournament champion? Lets us know on Twitter: @bkb_official1
Tickets remain on sale, and you can watch from home on FITE.tv, Sky tv, Virgin Media and FOX Sports Asia.