It would be an understatement to say the month of October has been rough on Ben Rothwell. Not only did "Big Ben" lose his UFC Fight Night 76 co-main event slot after opponent Stipe Miocic withdrew due to injury, but the real punch to the gut came during fight week, when the UFC awarded Miocic the exact same opportunity Rothwell was campaigning so hard to get: a Jan. 2 top contender bout against Andrei Arlovski at UFC 195.
"Really, I was sick for like the whole day that I found out," Rothwell admitted Monday on The MMA Hour. "Because look, I pegged it. I pegged the event, I pegged the opponent, I knew everything. It was right there. January 2, Andrei Arlovski. This is my fight. And then they're like, ‘no, we're going to give it to the guy who just f**king backed out with an injury.' I've never seen this happen before ever, somebody getting booked the week that they're supposed to fight."
The announcement couldn't have come at a worse time, as Rothwell learned of the news while doing P.R. work in Dublin for a contender fight that never actually happened.
The heavyweight veteran said that although he was initially dismayed by his setback, by the time fight week came to a close, he had resolved to face it with a smile and make the best of a bad situation.
"Everybody is just going to bitch. That's what you expect," Rothwell said. "There's nothing that's going to happen. Nothing. I'm going to sit there and bitch and complain and what's going to happen? Nothing. It's just going to make it worse. [Dana White] doesn't want to hear it. It's just like everything, basically I just try to take it in stride.
"Yeah, I maybe got a raw deal, but trust me, I've been knocked down from far worse, and this isn't going to keep me down. This happened for a reason. I have to believe that. It's the story of my life, and this is one of those things where I don't understand it now, but I'm going to understand it later, and I just believe that 100-percent. I just know that I'm on a different path right now and I've just got to stick to it."
For now, Rothwell simply hopes his next opportunity to continue climbing the ladder comes sooner, rather than later. The 34-year-old heavyweight promised UFC president Dana White that he would be ready to fight if either Junior dos Santos or Alistair Overeem drop out of their scheduled Dec. 19 bout at UFC on FOX 17, and Rothwell said White reassured him that the UFC was working diligently to get him back onto the schedule.
Rothwell finds himself in a grim situation though, as the entirety of the UFC heavyweight top-10 is already booked for future bouts, with only a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is Frank Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion who saw his two-fight win streak snapped by Arlovski in September.
Even at 36 years old, Mir is still a big name for the division. However his current status at the No. 10 ranked heavyweight would do far less to boost Rothwell's stock than a win over the likes of Arlovski or Miocic.
"It's an interesting situation for me. I was going to fight the No. 3 ranked guy. Now I'm going to fight a guy who's just coming off of a loss to a guy who I've been trying to book a fight with in Andrei?" Rothwell said. "It's tough. It's like, how do I feel about that? But then I look at the landscape, and besides Frank Mir, there's only a couple other names who are getting thrown around, and those names aren't very probable.
"At least Frank Mir is in the top-10 and he's still a household name to fight. If that's the fight that happens, then that's the fight I need to take. But like I said, I'm trying to pursue the top guys here, so we'll see what happens."
Other than Mir, the only available name in the heavyweight top-10 is Josh Barnett, who is ranked one spot above Rothwell.
Barnett would be a viable opponent for any streaking contender, having dispatched Roy Nelson in a brutal affair last month. However he also is sitting in limbo, with his acting career presently taking precedence over his fighting career.
So even though Rothwell acknowledged that Barnett would be "a better fight" for his stock, he also isn't willing to wait if it means languishing on the sidelines until mid-2016.
"I'm just very sincere in wanting to fight anybody, the best guys," Rothwell said.
"I started doing cardio and started training here (in Ireland), started focusing on when I get home. I already got my training camp already set up. I already got my trainers ready. I'm a professional and I'm just going to be ready for my opportunity whenever it comes."