Ben Rothwell shares why he requested his UFC release: “I get to be myself again.”


Ben Rothwell had a feeling his run with the UFC was possibly coming to an end even before he was released from the promotion.

After he was offered a fight against Alexander Gustafsson in May, which would serve as the last bout on his current contract, the 40-year-old heavyweight reached out to discuss a potential extension. In those discussions, it became evident that Rothwell was not guaranteed a future at the UFC after that win.

“Me, my management sat down and it was the last fight under my contract. What’s next?” Rothwell stated on The MMA Hour .. “What are we going to do? We went to UFC to ask if we could sign anything. Are we going to get something done ahead for this fight? Because I have been able to see the whole picture, the timing, and the place I am in it. Some of the heavyweights were let go and it made me wonder, even though I did well and knocked out Gustafsson in round one, how do I know what the next step is?

” We talked about it and kind of suspected that was the answer. They said, “Let’s wait and see how this fight goes.” We talked about it and kind of suspected that was the answer, which kind of left the door open to go out and win and do great and that’s it, we’re going to let you go anyways.”

Rothwell said that he did not like uncertainty over his career and the fact that there was only so much time in the sport.

That led to an entirely different talk with the UFC where Rothwell asked for his release from the promotion after 13 years on the roster.

” We asked Rothwell for release in February.” Rothwell said. Rothwell said, “I told you I only have so many fights. This fight was just for money.” What is it really going to do if I fight Gustafsson, who is a name but he’s 0-3 [in his last three fights] and the fight is just a fight. It’s a fight to make money and I’ve only got so many fights left in me to make money.

” We just asked them for our release. They said that there had been a time when it went back and forth. I believe this surprised them if not. I’ve been with them for 13 years. So they granted it to us and they didn’t have to. So I have nothing bad to say. I’ve had a good 13 years being a professional fighter, making my living off of fighting, getting to do something I love and they granted it to us.”

While Rothwell has no bad blood with the UFC whatsoever, he admits that his last few years there were difficult as he struggled to maintain his own personality after a uniform policy was instituted in the wake of a multi-year deal signed with Reebok.

Fighters were now required to wear certain outfits. Rothwell was not allowed to speak at weigh-ins and walkouts. He had to look like all other UFC athletes. Rothwell claims that he was once threatened with fines for trying to bring a cloak to one of his fights.

” Not fighting in front people and not being myself the past five years, it has been crippling,” Rothwell stated. “Yeah, they threw a uniform on us and I feel like my hands have been chained.

“I just feel like there’s so much more to me and so much more to show and that’s what’s got me so excited. I get to be me again. It’s a chance to be me again.

Add to that, Rothwell saw a number of other high profile heavyweights get released from the UFC over the past year, which only exacerbated the doubts he had about receiving another long term deal even with a win over Gustafsson in May.

“I came to them originally [wanting to re-sign],” Rothwell said. “I’ve been with them for 13 years and I want to know that I’m going to go through another one of these training camps, just let me know if I go through this and do well, am I going to have another fight after? This is business. I understand it. It was an indication that the company was making big changes.

“Junior especially wanted to be there, they didn’t want him. I knew he was on a bad streak, I get it. You can’t just lose four fights and think it’s normal. Obviously there’s things at play but Overeem’s always been an anchor at heavyweight. That was kind of surprising and I knew the writing on the wall. They’re getting rid of the older guys.”

Even asking for the release was stressful because Rothwell understood the uncertainty that awaited him after finding a lot of job security in the UFC since first signing there in 2009.

Rothwell quickly discovered his value on the open market after receiving offers from almost everyone in combat sports. He then reached an agreement with BKFC to switch to bare-knuckle fights and accept a contract from them.

Rothwell stated that

“BKFC offered the best deal. “Made me very excited. I believe that it’s a place for me because I was doing BKFC long before MMA. It is something I am a part in. Something my grandfather was doing, probably not legally, but he had a history of it and it’s in my blood. I’m really excited to be with them.

“It is a great deal. It’s an excellent deal [than the UFC]. in the short-term. I can’t really get into numbers but let’s just say I’m a six-figure fighter and I win my next three fights, I’ll make seven figures. This is a great deal .”

Beyond his three-fight deal with BKFC, Rothwell can’t predict the future just yet.

He won’t say with absolute certainty that he’ll never compete in mixed martial arts again because there’s always a chance another organization will come calling with an offer he can’t refuse.

That said, Rothwell appears ready to make his BKFC debut this summer and he’s putting his full attention towards bare-knuckle competition for the time being.

“I think it’s best to always keep doors open,” Rothwell said. Because I can get myself moving, I’m able to get my name out there again and show that entertainer I am, I make people happy again. I’ve only got so many more years to do it. The door’s open for anything. Never say never.”