Rich Franklin to fight Cung Le

Updated: March 18, 2012, 9:26 PM ET
By Franklin McNeil | ESPN.com

After spending the past three-plus years competing against larger opposition, former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin returns to his natural division.

Franklin has agreed to meet former Strikeforce middleweight titleholder Cung Le on July 7 at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, the promotion announced Sunday on its website.

Following his second knockout loss to current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in October 2007, Franklin defeated Travis Lutter on April 19, 2008.

But the second-round TKO victory wasn't enough to convince UFC officials that Franklin should remain at 185 pounds. Franklin (28-6) then began testing his skills against larger fighters, competing at 205 pounds and 195-pound catchweight bouts.

While Franklin fought above the 185-pound limit several times early in his MMA career, he struggled to find a rhythm during his recent stint against larger fighters -- winning just three of six bouts.

Le (7-2) looks to earn his first UFC win after suffering a second-round TKO loss in his debut Nov. 19 to Wanderlei Silva.