When Rothwell was firing on all cylinders, finishing Brandon Vera, Alistair Overeem, Matt Mitrione and Josh Barnett in succession, he became a cult hero to fight fans who filled his bandwagon to the breaking point. Then came a loss to Junior Dos Santos, nearly three years away from the sport due to a USADA suspension, and when he returned, a controversial decision defeat to Blagoy Ivanov and a more clear-cut loss at the hands of Andrei Arlovski, one that saw him battling a lung infection that took him out of the fight almost as soon as it started.
“People were saying, ‘This guy talks about three-round cardio and he gasses in the first minute,’” recalls Rothwell, clearly frustrated by the whole situation. “I was really upset with my performance and I fought that fight not feeling well. I was a mess and I think the fight performance showed it. I couldn’t not fight, though. That’s just how I am.”
There was a silver lining, though, and it came when he got a call from an old friend offering a helping hand.
“Around the Andrei Arlovski fight, Duke (Roufus) was the one who reached out,” recalled Rothwell. “He said, ‘Listen, I want to help you.’ And even after the Arlovski fight, he continued to do that and that really meant something to me.”
So as he prepares for Struve, Kenosha’s Rothwell is making appearances in the Instagram feed of Milwaukee’s Roufus, a welcome sight for those who know the pair and what they’ve meant to each other.
“You gotta remember, Duke and I were together ten years ago,” said Rothwell. “One day, (Former UFC lightweight champion) Jens Pulver walked in and it was kind of like history again and Duke made a post saying, thank you Jens Pulver and Ben Rothwell; it’s because of you that I got into this. I was Duke’s first mixed martial artist, the first one who walked into his gym. He never even really thought about it or looked at it, and I was the very first guy that kind of brought it into his gym and the rest is history.