Fighter Franco lines up his debut bout as MMA pro

A mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter from Gainsborough is raring to go after lining up his first fight as a professional.
RARING TO GO -- mixed martial arts fighter Ricardo 'Rico' Franco (left), who is looking forward to his first professional fight.RARING TO GO -- mixed martial arts fighter Ricardo 'Rico' Franco (left), who is looking forward to his first professional fight.
RARING TO GO -- mixed martial arts fighter Ricardo 'Rico' Franco (left), who is looking forward to his first professional fight.

And as the reputation of Ricardo ‘Rico’ Franco grows, he has also set up weekly boxing classes for youngsters, which have created a lot of interest in the town.

The 23-year-old Franco spent five years on the amateur circuit and contested bouts in various boxing disciplines not only all over this country but also as far afield as Thailand.

Now, though, he has taken the plunge and joined the professional MMA ranks, with his debut fight earmarked for a show at the Doncaster Dome on Saturday, December 3.

“I’m still working at the steelworks in Scunthorpe, but my aim is to go full-time eventually,” said Franco.

“It’s a bit risky quitting your job straight away because you’ve got a mortgage and bills to pay. It’s a big decision. But after a few professional fights on big shows, I am hoping to get more noticed and go for it, full time.”

Franco does not yet know the identity of his opponent for the debut bout, but his coach, renowned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Danny Mitchell, is talking to the show’s promoter and all should be revealed in the next few weeks.

“It could be anyone, but I’m always training and always ready and will fight anyone,” Franco said. “I know it will be tough, but I am really looking forward to it.

“As part of the build-up, I’m having a training camp in Tenerife for week in November when I will really need to get my head down, cut a bit of weight and prepare for the fight.”

Franco trains out of the AVT gym in Doncaster and is full of praise for the 30-year-old Mitchell, who has won 18 of his fights as a pro and is known as ‘The Cheesecake Assassin’ in UFC, which is the premier MMA promotion in the world.

“Danny has been a massive inspiration to me from day one and I really look up to him,” he said. “He’s been there and done it and can open doors for me because he has a lot of contacts.”

Franco himself hopes to get into the UFC one day. But there’s not a lot of money in MMA, unlike orthodox boxing, so he will be relying heavily on sponsorship as he forges a name for himself in the ring.

Extensive appeals for help, via Facebook and the media, have already resulted in four sponsorship deals and he is hoping to secure more in the coming months.

His backers so far are Gainsborough firms Foster Transport and Stuart Cowan painters and decorators, plus Coleman’s pizzeria and steak house, of Bawtry, and the Doncaster-based XSGuard mouthguards.

Franco is full of praise for their help, and the support of everyone in the Gainsborough and Doncaster areas. That’s one of the reasons why he is anxious to put something back into the community, via his boxing and fitness classes.

“They’re for four-to-13-year-olds at The Studio in Gainsborough every Saturday from 1 pm to 2 pm,” he said. “They’re something different for the kids to enjoy.

“Anyone can come down. The classes are fun, but I want everyone to learn something useful too.”

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