Rich Franklin awakened in a hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 15, 2006, his side aching, his nose throbbing.
For the first time in 16 months, he didn't hold the UFC middleweight championship.
Franklin stared out the window, desperate for answers.
He wasn't simply beaten by Anderson Silva the night before, he was manhandled. Silva, who is ranked No. 4 in the Yahoo! Sports MMA Top 10, was a world-class fighter long before he entered the UFC. So it was no surprise that he won the middleweight title from Franklin at UFC 64.
What was a shock was the way he pummeled Franklin like a rag doll before stopping him in the first round.
Even Franklin (22-2), who will get his shot at revenge on a pay-per-view show Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati when he challenges Silva at UFC 77, wasn't sure what had happened or how it had gone down.
"I did a lot of staring out the window wondering where I went wrong and what happened and why," the 33-year-old Franklin said. "And you keep asking yourself, 'Why? Why? Why?' You could do that for days and days upon end, and really you just come to the same conclusion you came to before you even thought of the question anyway, which is pretty much nothing."
To get his answers, Franklin secluded himself in the mountains of Wyoming, trying to find a solution to the biggest challenge of his young career.
He's known almost nothing but success – he's 22-2, with his only other loss coming to highly regarded light heavyweight Lyoto Machida – but he already has hit a critical junction in his career.
Even if he loses, he'll be back before too long, if only because the middleweight division in the UFC is so bereft of legitimate challengers. It's clearly the weakest of the UFC's five divisions. The best middleweight Zuffa has under contract other than Silva or Franklin – and, perhaps, even including Silva and Franklin – is WEC champion Paulo Filho.
And so even if Silva, 32, blows out Franklin again, there aren't that many challengers waiting for a shot that Franklin will be on ice should he lose. His motivation primarily is a personal one, which is why he opted to skip town and train in Wyoming.
UFC president Dana White, who said Wednesday he believes Silva (19-4) deserves to be regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, isn't concerned that the division's lack of depth will hurt Franklin's intensity.
"Rich is definitely going to have a sense of urgency," White said. "He's a competitor and he wants to win the title back. Nobody wants to be the guy who is right there and can't win it. I am expecting a completely different Rich Franklin this time around."
Franklin never has been a fan of the media, but he also realized that if he trained at home he be inundated by curious fans. And as badly as he wants to win this fight, he didn't want to put up with the distractions. He was the center of attention at UFC 68 in Columbus and knew it would only be worse as he prepared to fight in his native Cincinnati, where he was born and raised, went to college and then taught high school math.
"Well, the amount of P.R. work that I had to do for Columbus was a lot in comparison to something I would do when I was fighting in Vegas," Franklin said. "And the difference is that even in Columbus, I'm still an hour and a half away from that city. Here, everything is in my backyard.
"So, even if I don't pick up the phone and stuff like that, I still have media outlets showing up to workouts and fans coming in and stopping by and things like that. And all of that stuff becomes a distraction, so it's just easier to get out of town and shut it all down than it is to be there."
One of the reasons that fighters like Randy Couture and Muhammad Ali were able to transcend their sports is because they could do both. They were able to accommodate all media and all fans, seemingly at all times, and still be prepared to compete at the highest level.
Franklin is the studious type who analytically breaks down an opponent and then prepares for a fight as if he's preparing for a calculus examination and didn't have either the time or the inclination to deal with glad-handing sycophants as he was preparing for the fight of his life.
He has prepared for most of his fights as if he's getting ready for a final exam but, strangely, failed to do so for the fight which turned out to mean the most.
He said that in retrospect, he realized he hadn't prepared for Silva the way he should have.
"At the time of the initial fight, I believed that I had put the amount of time in that I should have to study him (but) I didn't," he said. "So we've done a lot better job this time breaking down the film and everything."
Whether that translates into a different outcome is debatable. Silva perhaps is the division's most dangerous striker, but he proved that he's able to compete with the best on the ground by the way he dealt with Travis Lutter and Nate Marquardt in his last two outings.
Many were choosing Marquardt to defeat Silva, who had visa problems and was unable to fly to Cincinnati from his native Brazil until Wednesday, but Silva overwhelmed him and won by TKO due to strikes at 4:50 of the first.
"Anderson Silva is a bad matchup for anybody, and if you're going to fight him, you have to be at your absolute best on that day," White said. "Look what he did to Nate Marquardt. Nate's standup is great, his ground is great and his wrestling is great. He's one of the better all-around guys out there, and Anderson destroyed him. Think of that fight and think of how Anderson just completely destroyed him."
It's not the kind of thing that Franklin needs to hear, but he's confident he has worked himself to the point where he's ready to win.
The conventional wisdom is that, even though Silva is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Franklin's best chance of winning is by getting to the ground.
But Franklin said he's willing to take the fight as it comes.
"I'm going to walk out there and start throwing punches like I always do," Franklin said. "Of course I have a game plan, but ultimately I'm going to take the path of least resistance. If that means keeping it up, fine. If we end up on the ground, that's fine as well."