“Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream. I would like to be remembered as somebody who envisioned a different world, reshaped the world in that image and loved living in it until the end,” he once said. I want people to say, ‘He was smart; he had his own style. He can’t be compared to others. I’m a kid who dreamed the dreams and made them come true.”
– Franco Richard
Franco Richard (born on December 2nd, 1977), also known by Francombat (a nickname given by his Kuoshu teacher – Zhu Shen Fa), is a French Canadian martial artist, former model, entrepreneur, author and Chairman and CEO of Francombat, LLC. the holding company who owns and operates a collective investment portfolio of businesses. He is also the founder of Pro Lei Tai™ – the World Governing Body for Professional Lei Tai fighting. Prior to launching Lei Tai Championship™, Franco was best known as becoming a self-made millionaire at 27 years old by founding online gaming venture Bet on Combat™. With his finger on the pulse of the fight industry, he is also the driving force behind the combat sports media property that bears his nickname francombat.com, as well as his philanthropic Unfightable Initiatives. In 2017, Franco wrote an e-book, Investing on Combat Sports : Introducing the New Wall Street, in which he chronicles his life experiences as oddsmaker, professional bettor and bookmaker.
Franco was raised in St-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Quebec, a rural French Canadian town of 1,500 people located on the southern slope of the St. Lawrence River 200 km northeast of Québec City, the youngest of four children of France St-Pierre and Robert Richard. As a child he had a difficult childhood attending pre-school with problems of concentration and discipline caused by ADHD. After his parents had been advised by a doctor to give him some pills of Ritalin, they decided to enroll him in martial arts hoping to direct his excess energy and assertiveness in a positive manner. He also took private piano lesson besides martial arts. As he grew up he watched films by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Vince Lam and Jet Li at the theater, which was his inspiration to learn martial arts. He was so inspired by them that while he was playing with friends, he would imitate the martial arts moves that he had seen, practicing everywhere he can. When he was 7 years old, he threatened his father that he would kill himself if he was not taught by Bruce Lee.
Already a karate black belt at 17, Franco dedicated himself to martial arts and training throughout his teen years. After participating to the 8th World Kuoshu Tournament in 1996 in Taipei, Taiwan, Franco knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life and how he was going to reach those goals. It was there that he unintentionally hit upon the concept for professional Lei Tai. Early 2000, Franco moved to Quebec city and opened his own martial arts studio. Then six months later, he opened up a subsequent school in Montreal’s Chinatown. When he wasn’t training or teaching at his martial arts schools, Franco worked as a doorman in nightclubs.
Franco was always a quick study, but rarely found himself engaged by schoolwork. In a March 2007 interview, he revealed that he has taken some college classes but does not have a degree. He attended University in Business but dropped out because he felt that he was not receiving a “real world” education that he was searching for. He decided that if the university faculty had actually known how to create a successful business, they would be running their own businesses instead of teaching how to do it. When he got older, he was pleased to discover that no one actually cares. Franco doesn’t want to imply that college is bad or anything. He’s just saying is “there’s other ways to fill your head”. Determined to one day run his own company, Franco poured himself into study, fascinated with the complexities and challenges of business. The field of his study also encompasses stock market, internet marketing, software programming, human physical anatomy, physiology, moral philosophy, and sport medicine.
Franco began his modeling career at the age of eighteen, when he signed with a modeling agency in Montreal. After dropping school, Franco bounces back and forth from the East coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between making a living as a model/spokesperson. The French Canadian—born has appeared in high profile ad campaigns, and has worked with some of the top photographers in the fashion industry. At 6 feet 2 inches, 210lb, his major layouts include numerous television commercials and print campaigns. Most recently Franco was featured in several of the most renowned martial arts publications in the world, among others.
Never Sit Still
Ambitious, young and driven by a quest for greater success, Franco used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was to travel. He achieved this goal pretty early. As his athleticism and martial skills grew so did his desire to further his training in the martial arts than what was available in the West. In December of 2004, he close his martial arts schools, sold all of his belongings, shouldered his backpack and went on a pilgrimage to discover all he could about Kung Fu.
From December 2004 to March 2010, Franco traveled on a continuous sixteen-month trip around the world, blogging each day with his detailed and sometimes humorous style of storytelling. The blog Unfighting.com, which has received over 475,000 unique hits from a global audience, originally began as a small online journal for a few family and friends updated about where he is, but evolved into one of the best destination on the internet for wisdom.
A few months into his trip, then one day he heard about an “old Chinese guy” that could throw people around with a form of Chinese wrestling called “Shuai Jiao.” So he decided to travel abroad to Taiwan, Republic of China. Through some contact, soon Franco received an invitation to attend a two-days seminar, which the best fighters were invited. His meeting with masters Zhu Shen Fa was a real revelation. Not only did he discover Kuoshu (Chinese term for martial arts), but he also developed a great friendship with his master. It also gives him the privilege of training directly under him. Grandmaster Zhu was impressed by Franco performance during the weekend, leading him to arrange for the French Canadian a 3 months extension seminar in private training with him at the Kaohsiung’s Mansion. It is immediately apparent to Franco that Kuoshu is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master.
The Chinese connection
Franco Richard has experienced what for most is an achievement far beyond their wildest dreams. He has trained with an authentic Kung Fu Master, lived in his home in Taiwan (Republic of China), and has acquired an in-depth understanding of his family art and all of its tradition.
Franco Richard is one martial artist who was not influenced by the new wave of “mixed martial arts”. For Franco traditional ways do not just mean traditional training, but also traditional ethics. And for Franco, like his master, martial virtue will always be more important than any technique or style. Instead of following the well-worn path of many fighters who specialized in kickboxing or wrestling, Franco found his calling in “Kuo Shu 國術 – a two character word that means “national art” that is now recognized as synonymous with traditional Chinese martial arts. Today when using the world “Kuoshu,” there are two possible meanings. The first refers broadly to all Chinese martial arts. The second refers to a particular type of full contact fighting contest that allows for kicking and punching, but with the added excitement of high amplitude throws and takedowns on a raised platform called Lei Tai in mandarin.
From 1996 to 2004, Franco has participated in many Lei Tai tournaments all over the world. In each one, he has always ranked as one of the best in the Middleweight division, thanks to his determination, incredible skills, and combative spirit. At just 18, Franco qualified for the 1996 World Kuoshu Tournament in Taiwan, becoming one of the youngest Lei Tai fighter in the entire Games.
Having spent nearly five years in Taiwan studying Kuoshu 國術 (an alternate Chinese term for martial arts), Franco continued to immerse himself in the languages, cultures and religions of a number of nations. Arriving in Taiwan in 2004, Franco’s quest to discover Asia’s diverse martial arts has led him to the original Shaolin Temple in China, a Muay Thai monastery in Thailand, as well as learning martial arts from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines. Franco considers himself blessed to have studied with some of the greatest names ever in martial arts. There is an old Chinese saying, “The people you pick in life will be the people you emanate. Pick the best and you will be more like the best.”
Back in Canada in 2010, Franco has actively promoted ever since the study, sport, and teaching of the Art of Lei Tai™(擂臺術), his signature brand of kung fu fighting. He spent much of his time conducting seminars around the world, as well as assisting in the training of his contracted Lei Tai (擂臺) fighters from Canada and other countries. He is internationally recognized as the first person to introduce the professional sport aspect of Lei Tai fighting.
When it comes to Kuoshu-style Lei Tai fighting, few have enjoyed as much success on the International scene as Franco Richard, first as a fighter, coach and now as a promoter of the sport. In August 2011, Franco wrote to renowned Chinese Kung Fu masters from around the world, intimating that he wished to organize the first Professional Lei Tai Fighting Championship, in order to inspire more people to learn Kung Fu, stating, “I want to hold the first professional Lei Tai Fighting™ event in the world in the process of creating a legitimate and profitable combat sport, and consistently the next big thing in martial arts entertainment.”
The first official Lei Tai “revival” meeting took place on 1st October 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to exchange ideas and discuss regulations for Lei Tai Fighting that will reward a Kung Fu fighting style. His proposal was eagerly received. Soon the first “think tank” was formed and took on the responsibility of training referees and judges for the upcoming inaugural Lei Tai Fighting™ event.
But Franco understood his project was going nowhere without state approval (The sport was not sanctioned by any states or country). Franco’s first priority was to get his events approved in the province of Quebec first and then spread the sport worldwide. From there, he embarked upon a journey of working diligently to educate politicians and appointed officials on the merits, safety and economic impact the sport of Lei Tai Fighting could bring to the province of Quebec. During this time, the PRO LEI TAI™ accomplished what many would have thought as impossible, including the recognition of Lei Tai as a professional sport, establishment of an amateur Lei Tai circuit, and permission for events to have matches under the PRO LEI TAI™ Rules and Regulations.
It’s all happening…
Franco Richard strongly believes in giving back. His commitment and contributions to philanthropy have continued to serve and benefit people far beyond the martial arts community. Despite his success, Franco never forgot his humble upbringing. In 2017, Franco spearheaded the Unfightable Foundation to share his good fortune with others who may not have been afforded the same opportunities. Franco has made the site not-for-profit with all proceeds going to fund the Unfightable’s charity initiatives. Recently, Franco announced that he was renouncing his entire fortune, currently valued at $20 million, for social and humanitarian causes. Franco proudly stated that he was inspired by the appeal of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who ask wealthy people around the world to pledge at least 50% of their fortune to charities.
For a person who is constantly on the move in pursuit of his dream, relaxation is an unfamiliar term for Franco because there is so much experience to cram into one lifetime. When he’s not flying around the world attending one of his promotional fight events, Franco splits his time between his Hollywood Hills house in Los Angeles and in Montreal, where his penthouse overlooks the city and South. And occasionally throws big house parties for friends and the random acquaintances they bring along.
A semi-retired entrepreneur, Franco continues to serve as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, playing a key role in determining the path of Francombat Management, and directing other areas of the corporation including television, video production, licensing and digital content. He is currently engaged in a forthcoming book project entitled “Unfightable: With Every Epic Battle Comes an Unfightable Story” an autobiography, which relating his life’s principles to dream big, take action and focuses on the mindset of being “Unfightable.” As he says: “Being Unfightable is a state of mind. It consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting battle.”
To this day, Franco still obsessed to be in the best physical condition possible. Despite his busy schedule, Franco continues to work out five to six times per week in the Art of Lei Tai®, as well as his preparatory conditioning program Combat Fit®. In addition, Franco is a much sought after speaker inspiring others to achieve their goals and dreams as he has and offers in his book and on stage the recipe to achieve great success. This also adds to Franco’s philosophy of helping others and sharing his experience to benefit others-all in an entertaining way.
For more about Franco, read his latest interview for Francombat.com here.
Updated: January 2018