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Old 09-18-2009, 08:54 AM   #1
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Default UFC’s Dana White, Rich Franklin Discuss ‘Surreal’ Trading Cards

UFC’s Dana White, Rich Franklin Discuss ‘Surreal’ Trading Cards

Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has no idea what his best Topps trading card is worth. When he’s informed that it’s valued at $4, the gregarious master-marketer and promoter nonpareil responds with a question of his own.

“Is that good?” he quips rhetorically.

Absolutely it is.

It’s good when you consider that as recently as seven months ago the combined value of his zero cards was zero dollars.

It’s good in the sense that Topps, the granddaddy of its industry, thinks enough of your organization to ante up for a multiyear contract to become your exclusive manufacturer, and then proceeds to deliver one of the most successful sports card products in years.

It’s good as yet another of countless pop-culture confirmations that the UFC remains one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.

“Obviously, when you start a business, especially the business that we started that had such a negative [reputation], and now it’s being [featured] on trading cards, video games, action figures, on the cover of Sports Illustrated – all the great things that have happened over the last 10 years are very surreal,” White said Thursday during the pre-fight press conference for Saturday’s UFC 103 pay per view in Dallas.

It should be noted that Rich Franklin, the former UFC middleweight champion headlining Saturday’s card against Vitor Belfort, has a card that’s 15 times more valuable than White’s. That’s a fact best saved for another day.

For his part, Franklin, situated on the press-conference podium just to White’s right, is a veritable collectibles veteran. Known as “Ace” due to his uncanny resemblance to Jim Carey’s Ace Ventura, Franklin appears on 16 different cards from Topps and Donruss and a Round 5 figurine that bears his likeness.

He admits that his unlikely journey from public school educator to one of the UFC’s main attractions can still be quite unfathomable, especially when he glances at his fireplace.

“I didn’t expect any of this; Most people know that I just went to college to be a teacher and fortunately I’ve had this opportunity in life,” Franklin said. “Two of the things that were kind of mind-blowing for me were the trading cards, and seeing my action figure. That was just kind of surreal for me. I’ve got like 10 of them sitting on my mantle at home.”

Certainly Franklin’s not the only one. Not judging by the adoring throngs who flocked to his August appearance at the 30th National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.

The star’s Friday-Saturday signing stint on behalf of Blowout Cards was one of the absolute highlights of the four-day show. And the seemingly endless line of folks who stood on line to get an autograph or a picture or a handshake provided a compelling reminder of the UFC’s inescapable clutch on collectors, diehard MMA devotees and mainstream sports fans alike.

That broad appeal worked wonders for Topps’ first UFC product last February. It also has many of those same fans – and countless new ones just like them – chomping at the bit for 2009 Topps UFC, the follow-up release set to ship on Monday that includes first ever autograph cards of UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and “Ultimate Fighter 10″ contestant Kimbo Slice.

“The first product was our first product,” said Clay Luraschi, Topps Director of Product Development. “It was basically an introduction to the sport in terms of what we could offer. Now it’s just all building from there. We’re very excited about the future.”

– Tracy Hackler
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