If you are a UFC fan, you’ve probably at least heard of Cain Velasquez. You know, the giant Mexican-American heavyweight contender with the equally giant “Brown Pride” tattoo? Those kind of things tend to stand out. Velasquez is an undefeated heavyweight, one with so much promise that trainer Bob Cook at the American Kickboxing Academy literally could not find people willing to fight him. They had to bring Velasquez into the UFC, just four fights into his MMA career, simply to find an opponent. We know Cain Velasquez.
But who the hell is Ben Rothwell?
From obscurity to the semi-main event of a UFC PPV-it’s been a blisteringly quick ride for Rothwell, a Pat Miletich product who has fought on smaller shows around the country for years. Rothwell was the top unsigned heavyweight talent in the world, compiling a record of 30-6 in his eight year career. Fighting for obscure promotions, occasionally finding the meagre spotlight of the IFL or Affliction, Rothwell is ready to try his hand at the major league of MMA.
“I’m ecstatic to be here finally. There was opportunities… I didn’t want to be a guy that was happy (just) getting into the UFC. You know you see a lot of these guys that come and go and that just wasn’t me,” Rothwell told the media this week. “My objective all along is to come into the UFC as a somebody and then make my name and you know finish my career there. And the only way you can finish your career there is if you win fights and you make a name for yourself. Obviously, I’ve done something right because they put me on the poster and made me a co-main event. And I don’t think it happens just because. I think it’s because the guys that matter have been watching me and they know who I am and they know what I can do and that’s why they gave me this opportunity and I plan on being around for a while.”
To him the UFC Octagon is just another venue, the top of the card billing irrelevant to the business that goes on inside the cage.
“No more pressure than any other fight I’ve ever had. I mean in an Adrenaline show that doesn’t mean much. You go in there and you go overconfident and the guy catches you with the right hand and knocked out, well, you just ruined your career,” Rothwell said. “So you should have just as much pressure for that small nothing fight as you do the biggest fight you know what I mean? It’s only as big as you make it in your head.I mean this is – it’s a fight. If you’re not in this fight to win, then what the hell are you doing? I’m a fighter and I’m just excited to fight. And I leave all of that other stuff outside the octagon.”
Despite the bravado, the claims that this is just another fight, Rothwell has been working his whole life for this opportunity. Originally he was going to fight the equally unknown Chase Gormley. Now the pressure, and the possible rewards, have been amped up considerably. When Shane Carwin was pulled from a top contenders fight with Velasquez, passing go and advancing straight into a title fight with champion Brock Lesnar, Rothwell stepped into the void. And he’s more than a little happy about it.
“Well, fighting Cain everybody knows who he is. And that’s – I want to be fighting with the guys that are the names in the UFC,” Rothwell said. “You know I want to be a name in the UFC as well and that’s the only way. You’ve got to be in there fighting the guys that people know. So I’m very excited for the fight.”