UFC San Antonio: Ben Rothwell Discusses Controversial Loss and USADA Suspension

Ben Rothwell has been through a lot the last several years. From a USADA suspension to a controversial loss upon his return, his fight against Andrei Arlovski at UFC San Antonio will be important.

San Antonio, TX — Ben Rothwell is coming off a controversial unanimous decision loss to Blagoy Ivanov. In fact, most MMA media members believed he won that fight. It was certainly not the way Rothwell wanted to return from a near three-year layoff. He’ll look to right the ship in a rematch 11 years in the making at UFC San Antonio, taking on Andrei Arlovski.

“I re-watched the fight. There was a period of time there, especially when I was on that win streak, when I wasn’t watching my fights or my opponent’s. Then after the Junior [dos Santos] fight, I was like, ‘It would be wise for me to study a little more.’ So I started watching myself more than anything. And what are these guys watching, when these camps are investing a lot of time watching what I do. I’m pretty unpredictable and unorthodox, I use it to my advantage, so I’m just trying to for all the little nuanced things they do. In this particular last fight, I was not happy with my performance. That’s a fight I should finish within the first or second round. I firmly believe if we would have had a five-round fight like he had with Junior, I was going to finish him in the fourth round, there was no doubt about that. He was heavily fatigued, I’d shut both his eyes, and I was feeling pretty good.”

One of the more surprising aspects of that fight was Rothwell’s effectiveness late in the fight. For a fighter who had always struggled with cardio, this was a great achievement, and made the loss even harder to swallow.

“I actually picked it up, I beat him by a two-to-one ratio in the third round, but somehow two of the judges gave him that round. It makes no sense. All three scorecards were different. ESPN asked me to talk that night about it, and I didn’t want to— I just, it was too fresh, and I didn’t want to come in and sound like I was complaining. Because I’ve said for 20 years, don’t let it go to the judges. I don’t like to win my fights that way anyway. It is what it is. It was really unfortunate, even though I do think I did enough to win the fight.”

Ben Rothwell typically takes part in more decisive fights, with just one split decision in his 47-fight career. That being a victory over Roy Nelson in 2007. So having a controversial loss was unfamiliar territory for Rothwell.

“When I fought Junior, I clearly lost five rounds. I didn’t dispute that, I didn’t perform well, and I could handle it. This fight was different. Because it was so much media, people were telling me I won the fight, then I lost the fight. And I was like, ‘I did win the fight.’ It was different, I took a loss, I lost half my money, but I didn’t lose. So many people felt like I won. I’ve really never experienced this before. It’s either I lose, for sure, or I win. I’ve really never been in this situation.”

That aforementioned conditioning is something “Big Ben” is very proud of, especially after spending so long on the shelf.

“I know I can perform better. I had three years off. I tried hard to not let layoffs affect me. There’s no doubt, after three years, did I go in, was I hesitant the first round? There’s no doubt. What I didn’t want to do was go out and throw a bunch, then all of a sudden I’m putting my hands on my knees in the second round. My conditioning is in a place it’s never ever been before. For me to fight that well in the third round, that should bother the heavyweight division. Because I’ve never been that well off in a third round, ready to go in rounds four and five. Basically training for five rounds fights now, so I can really really pick it up. For a three-round fight, I can pick it up. It’s just the whole USADA thing just bothered me so much. It was just such a dark time for me.”

Ben Rothwell’s run-in with USADA came from being prescribed testosterone by a physician, but not receiving a therapeutic use exemption for it. As a result, Rothwell lost two years of the later stages of his career.

“I just want to first clarify, just so the UFC knows, I’ve never been more proud to be part of the UFC then now. They didn’t ask the doctor to treat me, they had nothing to do with it. They handed it off to USADA, let USADA do its job. My issue was with USADA. And it was what happened after the fact with this whole leniency, and inconsistency, that really bothered me. I feel most for the guys like Tom Lawlor, Lyoto Machida, and Josh Barnett. These guys had years taken off, and then you see other people having the same issues getting six-month suspensions. it’s just not right. My situation was pretty messed up, because I did have this whole medical staff treating me, and everyone was arguing. I can understand USADA could come up and be like, ‘This is an unfortunate situation, this is what happened, but this is our regulation, this has to be it.’ Just at least notify, ‘Hey, Ben wasn’t cheating.'”

Rothwell went deeper into those inconsistencies:

“Everything changed when they started talking about levels. When they started saying ‘Oh the levels were low for these other people.’ Well then mine all should have been completely part of it, because there was no cheating. Everything was regulated, all the testing was done by my doctors, everything was showing where they’re at, why they were doing it, why the therapists couldn’t treat me because I had physical conditions. And then when that was fixed, then they could treat me, and by that time USADA had already did everything. I was just a big [explosion sound].”

Heading into UFC San Antonio, Rothwell is still in a good place mentally despite all the hardships.

“One of the greatest challenges of my life was getting through this. And I did. I did get through it. I can honestly say I feel better and stronger than I ever had in my life. Even at 37 years old, age is just a number, at least for right now. At least for the next few years, I know it’s going to be that way.”

Check out the rest of Ben Rothwell’s UFC San Antonio media scrum below: