UFC DC: Ben Rothwell Addresses Mental Game in MMA, Knowing When to Retire

Ben Rothwell is excited to still be learning as a mixed martial artist, tackled questions on mental strength and knowing when to retire ahead of UFC DC this weekend.

Washington, D.C. — Compared to some of his other recent fights, Ben Rothwell (36-12) was in great spirits at this week’s UFC on ESPN 7 media day.

The veteran heavyweight opened light, but tackled any and all questions thrown his way ahead of the event, which finds him paired up against the towering Stefan Struve.

It’s as good of a place as he’s been since returning to the cage earlier this year, he agreed, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press. “I just kind of had to get over everything. That’s what I do, is pick myself up and carry on,” said Rothwell. “It’s part of being a mixed martial artist. A lot of ups and downs. Especially in my life — I have a long trail of failure. But somehow I’ve done enough, had some victories, and I’m still standing here. Took the time to make the appropriate changes and get ready for Saturday.”

Curiously, Rothwell suggested he’s rarely been happy in his career, with notable exceptions, like when fans ask him for autographs. But, he added, there is something driving him to compete regardless.

The mental side of the game, meanwhile, is something ‘Big’ Ben has been rather open about. In the past, he’s spoken of struggles there, and this week, addressed what he’s done to shore up that area.

“Trying to tie all lose ends,” Rothwell said about what he’s done to find the mental strength needed to be successful. “Make sure that you get to this week and you look back and reflect on the last four months and you go ‘there’s absolutely nothing else I would have done differently, or I needed to do.'” No “I should have did this, I should have did that,” he suggested. “I’ve eliminated all doubt whatsoever of what I expect from myself on Saturday.”

“That’s it.” Through twenty years of fights, wins and losses, Rothwell admitted that there’s always been moments of self-doubt. Prior to fight week “you look back, like ‘I wish I did a little more of this, I wish I did more of that.'”

For this fight in particular, he added, “I think the big topic that people talk about is that I reunited with Duke Roufus, so I’ve really rounded out my game. I’ve left nothing at all to be fixed. I have the striking coach, one of the best around, jiu-jitsu, everything in between. I’ve got training partners that are bigger than me, that is something I haven’t had in a long time.”

In fact, said Rothwell, that hasn’t happened since he was training with Tim Sylvia.

When Rothwell enters the octagon Saturday at UFC on ESPN 7, he’ll be looking to stave off a fourth straight defeat in the octagon. Counting a suspension from USADA, his three-fight losing streak dates back to 2016. At 38, the end of the road is drawing nearer. Opponent Struve has flirted with retirement, and says he won’t fight into his late 30s. Rothwell is already at that point, and was asked whether he had an end date in mind, or would just know when the time is right.

“I think that you just said it the best way: you just know it when you get there,” ‘Big’ Ben answered. “You see some guys struggle to maybe not be done when they should be, and other guys were amazed that they go deep into their 40s and have great success.”

“For me, it’s just about my body. My mind is constantly getting better at this. I’m always learning. That’s one thing that does excite me, is that I’m allowed to learn,” he continued.

More importantly, “as long as I can keep doing that and keep improving my game, I can keep progressing. I can show the heavyweight division something new, and keep winning, that’s ultimately what matters. Major injuries, and age just gets a hold of you, and constantly getting beat too much, I guess you’ve got to move on.”

UFC DC takes place December 7, 2019 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Ben Rothwell faces Stefan Struve in the main card, airing live on ESPN (TSN in Canada).

Watch the full UFC DC media day press scrum with Ben Rothwell above!