It’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the accomplishments of Ben Rothwell.
The Kenosha, Wisc., native added an impressive notch to his resume in the UFC on Fox 18 co-main event on Saturday night, as he became the first person to earn a true submission victory against Josh Barnett, tapping out the former heavyweight king with a modified guillotine choke 3:48 into round two.
It was Rothwell’s fourth straight UFC triumph -- the second-longest active streak in the division -- as well as his fourth straight finish.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m all about paying your dues. I’ll be surprised if I get overlooked now because I feel like I’ve paid some dues,” Rothwell said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I’ve shown the world what I can do. When I first came to the UFC I was win and lose, win and lose. It is what it is. I wasn’t showing what I could do.
“Why should you get rewarded when you’re losing fights? Now that I’ve put a string together and shown that I’m a contender and one of the best in the world, now we’ll see.”
At the moment, the heavyweight division is in a state of flux after both Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez withdrew from their title rematch at what was previously known as UFC 196. Stipe Miocic, who was initially slated to face Werdum for the belt on short-notice before the Brazilian pulled out, also has a legitimate claim to the No. 1 contender’s spot.
“I’d like to see what the offer is. I think you don’t make decision tonight. You look at what the situation is. Do they remake [Werdum-Velasquez]? That’s going to leave me and Stipe, I believe,” Rothwell said. “If they want to move things around and they want to put me in, I’ll crush Werdum and take his belt.”
While Rothwell is confident in his chances should a championship opportunity come his way, he is more concerned with leaving his mark on the entire division. Where Rothwell gained notice for a celebratory jig following his win over Alistair Overeem in 2014 and for his villainous laugh after a stoppage of Matt Mitrione this past June, he had different intentions in Newark, N.J.
“The bottom line is, I think the belt is gonna come secondary because my No. 1 priority is laying waste to this entire division,” he said. “Tonight wasn’t about dancing or laughing, it was about making a statement and I made it tonight.”
To truly achieve that goal, Rothwell would like to right the wrongs that accompanied the early portion of his UFC tenure. More specifically, the International Fight League veteran still desires to avenge the loss to Velasquez that occurred in his Octagon debut.
“Of my nine losses I’ve never been able to fight one of them again. If I could avenge someone it would be Cain,” Rothwell said. “He for so many years held onto the belt, held up a lot of guys for being able to fight for it. Of my losses it would probably mean the most to avenge that loss.
“I have a good string of guys on my win record that shows I’m one of the best in the world, but I think adding Cain to it is what it’s gonna take to prove that I’m one of the very best heavyweights in the world.”