UFC heavyweight Ben Rothwell may be over 40 fights into his pro MMA career, but he’s arguably hotter now than he’s ever been after submitting Josh Barnett in January.
Rothwell became the first man ever to submit grappling specialist Barnett in MMA when he pulled off a ‘Performance of the Night’-winning gogo choke at UFC on Fox 18.
“Honestly, I had no idea. There’s so many ways to finish a fight on the feet and on the ground,” Rothwell told FO when asked if he expected to win his last fight in such shocking fashion. “I’m just very proud to see myself do what I train to do. Sometimes – you’ll see a lot of guys – it’s tough to do what you do in the training room in front of people.”
“It literally didn’t sink in for several days,” he added. “I was watching the internet and all the people talk about it – it’s still growing. It’s going to be talked about, I think, for some time.”
Ben’s unusual yet entertaining character has made him something of a fan favorite and, when he last fought, many fans were disappointed not to see the same pro wrestling-esque antics they have grown used to seeing from Rothwell. According to ‘Big’ Ben, he even had a cape and mask prepared for his UFC on Fox 18 entrance but had them removed just before his walkout as the attire conflicted with the UFC-Reebok uniform policy.
“I think we need to embrace it, not take it away,” Rothwell said. “I see the reaction from the fans. You’ve got critics, you’ve got people that don’t like it, but you know what? They talk about it. And you’ve got a whole bunch of people that do like it and they were disappointed when I didn’t give them more of it. So I think they need to listen to the fans and let me do what I need to do.”
Like most fighters, Rothwell’s ultimate goal is to become UFC champion. But before he gets his shot at the heavyweight title, Stipe Miocic will challenge current champ Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198 in May.
When asked for his prediction, Rothwell remained on the fence.
“I think Stipe is going to have an advantage on the feet, and then Werdum has the submissions on the ground. So it’s tough to say,” he said. “But Werdum’s been backing up everything, he’s got a six-fight win streak in the UFC, and Stipe seems to be on fire. So it’s going to be a great fight, either way.”
In the end, no matter who holds the title, the only thing Rothwell truly cares about is that he gets his shot. And, if he can beat former champ Junior dos Santos when the two headline UFC Fight Night 86 on April 10th, the top-five heavyweight could well be next to challenge for that belt.
“There’s nothing set in stone, but I think common sense says that this is going to make me the number one contender. I think the UFC will be excited to get me into that title fight. There’s more and more fans asking for it now
“My rise is here. It’s my time.”
UFC Fight Night 86 takes place at Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia.