Ben Rothwell plans to do his talking in the cage at UFC Wichita, and will address USADA and his recent suspension when “the time comes.”
Wichita, Kansas — Returning at UFC Wichita, ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell has been out of action for more than a minute. The heavyweight last fought in 2016 against Junior Dos Santos in Croatia, suffering a loss that snapped a four fight win streak in the UFC’s heavyweight division. That sort of streak earns fighters title shots these days, and even at the time, Rothwell was a contender. The Dos Santos fight might have gotten him there, and even in defeat, he was paired up against another former champ in Fabricio Werdum. It never happened, however. Rothwell was forced out of the fight due to a knee injury.
Then, USADA came calling. Rothwell failed a pair of drug tests in 2017, and though he produced evidence that he had been prescribed testosterone by his physician, he did not have a therapeutic use exemption. Big Ben was banished, a two year suspension being handed down.
Suspension served, an intense Ben Rothwell spoke to the media Thursday ahead of his fight with Blagoy Ivanov. It’s clear he’d rather have been doing just about anything else.
“I’ll tell you that, I’m here to do business,” he said, adding “March 9 is the day I’m going to conduct business.” On that date, “I’m going to take on one of the best fighters in the world. It sounds like a lot, but literally the toughest thing for me is this right here. Having to talk about it.”
Rothwell, choosing his words carefully, stated that “I just don’t have much to say. People ask for predictions, I have no predictions, they ask about my feelings, I have no feelings. I really don’t. I’m here, and I’m here to let my actions speak for me.”
As for his suspension, “everything and anything to deal with my past is something that will be discussed, but not at this time.” Pressed on why he’s holding back, Rothwell answered that “those reasons are personal, and when the time comes, I’ll let you know.”
One might expect Rothwell to have lost faith in USADA, but that’s another subject he wouldn’t touch. “I’m going to put that into also associated with my past, and they too will be addressed when the time comes,” he said.
What kept him going during his lengthy layoff was his business. “I can’t hide from the fact that I own a gym. Because of that place, I’m a martial artist, and I have to be there,” he explained. “It kind of took my choice away from me, and forced me to continue doing what I do. I would say I’m here right now, luckily, because of that.”
Have no doubt about his drive, however. “I’m here this weekend as a fighter. When I was away, I was a martial artist, but here this week I’m a fighter. That’s something that’s been a part of me since my earliest memories. That’s never been questioned or doubted or challenged.”
As for his opponent, Ivanov, Rothwell said that “from what I can see, he’s probably the toughest and best fighter coming out of Bulgaria. Toughest challenge, toughest opponent that’s not on anyone’s top ten list.”
He’s not looking past this weekend, and as to what comes next, ‘Big’ Ben said only that “I have no crystal ball, I have no predictions,” before adding “whatever happens next, happens.”