Ben Rothwell called out Aleksei Oleinik following UFC Jacksonville, and his reasoning is simple: Oleinik beat Fabricio Werdum.
Rothwell (38-12) defeated Ovince Saint Preux at the event, for his second straight win in the octagon. The fight went the distance, resulting in a split decision for “Big” Ben. But he’ll take the win and move forward — and Oleinik makes sense.
“Werdum was somebody that I was supposed to fight in the past,” Rothwell told Cageside Press and other media outlets post-fight. “Just a huge win for Oleinik. He looked really good. I just think it’d be a great fight. I even think that fight maybe put him back in the rankings.”
That, said Rothwell, is exactly where he needs to get to. “I need to fight one of top guys. He’s kind of right on the cusp now. And he’s someone I haven’t fought yet. So rock n’ roll.”
Oleinik, of course, battled it out with Werdum just days ago, in a fight that mostly played out on the feet. It was a key win in Oleinik’s lengthy, 70+ fight career.
Prior to Wednesday’s co-main event battle with OSP, Rothwell had spoken of the importance for older fighters like himself to get fights while they can. Hence taking a bout during less-than-optimal circumstances in a pandemic.
Asked how long he might continue in the sport, the 38-year old didn’t specify — but highlighted some of his older peers as examples.
“Unfortunately guys like Oleinik, Werdum, Mark Hunt in the past, Randy Couture, they keep going,” Rothwell replied. “These guys fight. Alistair Overeem. I battled Overeem, but those guys know I look up to them. Him, and Andrei Arlovksi. I look up to these guys. They’re deep in their 40s, and they’re fighting hard. So they really motivate me to keep going.”
“Big” Ben clearly feels he has more to show, in any case. “I know I’ve had some good victories in the past, but I think competition’s gotten tougher. So I’m not really showing yet how much better I’m getting.”
One noticable improvement Wednesday at UFC Jacksonville was his cardio. Saint Preux, of course, is best known as a light heavyweight. A big one, and Rothwell called him a heavyweight flat-out post-fight. Still, it was expected OSP might have the edge there. Rothwell held his own.
“My body weight really shows a lot of what I’m going through. I’ve got a lot against me outside of all this. So for me to come down and walk around, my new walkaround weight is 268. I’m really proud of that,” he stated. “It’s been really hard work. I can walk around 310 really easy. I’ve got a new goal, my weight’s going to keep dropping. And I really feel through that, my conditioning’s going to continue to improve. I’m going to get faster, and you’re going to see some more well-roudnedness in my game.”