“Big” Ben Rothwell has a new fighting home, and it won’t be in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Rothwell (39-14) had been expected to face Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson in an upcoming UFC bout. However, earlier this month, it was confirmed that the 40-year old from Wisconsin had exited the promotion, after spending over a decade calling the octagon home.
On Monday, Rothwell’s next endeavor in combat sports was revealed: he’s the latest UFC star to sign on with BKFC, the preeminent bare-knuckle boxing organization.
Promotion officials confirmed the news following an appearance by Rothwell on The MMA Hour on Monday. “Big” Ben also shed light on what led to his exit from the UFC after thirteen years.
“So, let’s clear all this up. A lot of people, you know, coming at me, UFC cut me, and what do they know? The UFC gets to use their press release that they released me, no one knows why, you hear talks of USADA, all these things,” said Rothwell.
“The truth is, the fight [against Gustafsson] got brought to us in January, they announced it, there was all this stuff going on. Me and my manager sat back and we were like, ‘well it’s the last fight on our deal. What comes next, what are we going to do?'”
Rothwell’s management team, First Round Management, approached the UFC about a new contract, but he added that “in my mind, I’ve been kind of seeing the landscape, what’s been going on, my timing, where I’m at in the picture. They’ve let go of some of the big heavyweights and stuff. Even if I go out and perform well, knock out Gustafsson in the first round, look great, what’s going to come next?” The UFC, when they got back to Rothwell, preferred to leave negotiations until after the final fight on his deal.
Rothwell and his manager had suspected as much, and knew that even with a win, a new contract wasn’t a guarantee. “I didn’t like that, and we asked for our release in February.”
The heavyweight has nothing but good things to say about the UFC, however, especially given they granted his release. And BKFC? “They came with the best offer,” he stated. And bare-knuckle fighting runs in the family, apparently. “It’s something I’m a part of, in my life. Something my grandfather was doing, probably not legally, but had a history of it. It’s in my blood. I’m really excited to be with them.”
No date has been set for Rothwell’s Bare Knuckle FC debut. He last competed at UFC Vegas 42 last November, suffering a defeat by TKO at the hands of Marcos Rogerio de Lima.