Doubt. Everyone deals with it. Even a big strong man like UFC heavyweight contender Ben Rothwell.
Big Ben has clocked in four straight impressive wins, coming off the unthinkable, submitting the master ground specialist Josh Barnett. A win that has rocketed Rothwell into the Top 5 in the latest rankings and possibly the next shot at the belt.
That win showing the growth of a more rounded game, another form of attack for the man known for his striking. It also is a testament to a mindset equally as tough. One that just didn’t happen, but was strengthened long before.
Rothwell jumped right into the deep end of the UFC pool in his debut losing to Cain Velasquez in 2009. A win and a loss later, he entered his fight with Brendan Schaub at UFC 145 in April 2012 knowing his career was on the line.
“To ever go through life and say you never had doubts, you’d be lying,” he says by phone from the gym he runs in his hometown Kenosha, Wisconsin. “Doubts come, it’s what you do with them.”
What he did against Schaub was record the “KO of the Night” in only a minute ten seconds in round one. He was here to stay for any of the doubters out there.
“Going into the Schaub fight I knew my head was on the UFC chopping block. I couldn’t be one and three. Every fight is a must win but this was the end of career must win no doubt.”
That the former face of the Interntational Fight League, their undefeated heavyweight champ had that type of fortitude has never surprised his former roommate with the Quad City Silverbacks, former IFL middleweight titlest Ryan McGivern. It’s not about dwelling in past glory, but it is that history of hard work and being a true student of the game that is evident in the present rejuvenation of Rothwell.
“Ben had a raw determination that he would achieve what he set his mind too. Something that stood out about him is that he wasn’t just competing against other heavyweights in the gym, but everyone. I remember running the hill, it was very steep and very long, Ben wasn’t competing against just the heavyweights, but everybody from the 135ers on up. And if he couldn’t beat you up that hill he was going to work to get as best as he could. He was the same way in the gym, “McGivern recalls. “He never pigeonholed himself, he was always striving as a student of MMA.”
The deserved recognition now started with his first round TKO over 5-1 favorite Alistar Overeem in 2014, Rothwell feels. “I was acquiring more skills, stepping up against the top competition and after I was the underdog again and won again, it started something else, compounded more doubts from those who once doubted me, that they might have to prepare for when everybody picks me as favorite.”
By his own admission “six years ago I would’ve never won Like this.” It was returning to some basics in life as well as style. The ever evolving Rothwell went back to his Wisconsin roots opened his own gym in 2011 to train and to teach, forming a core group. It’s the environment he has always thrived in and needed, that commaradarie that is essential for positive energy.
“Having people believe in you is huge. We all feed off that. It blows me away this thin line between it all in fighting. Each little intricacy is so important. It’s been quite a ride.”
And for the 34 year old with a 36-9 mark his best might be yet to come. Obviously there’s the title shot. “I’ve been very vocal, building my case. If they make me fight one more time, fine. I’m not going to sit around and wait.”
Rothwell’s revival has an increased following who appreciates his determination and abilities. That he has earned this moment leaves no doubt.
Got something you’re burning on? Tell the man himself on Twitter.
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