Entering his main card fight against Stefan Struve at UFC on ESPN 7, Ben Rothwell was in dire need of a victory. With three straight decision losses, the man known as “Big Ben” knew his time in the UFC could be up if he failed to secure his first win since 2016.
While he did manage to earn the second-round TKO win over the towering Struve, it was the pair of low blows landed by Rothwell that dominated the headlines.
“Yeah, there’s an asterisk, but I can’t do anything about it,” Rothwell said when asked about his victory. “I tried to be as apologetic as I could and complimented Stefan Struve for being a man. But, you’ve got to move on. I got myself in a really good position to have a big 2020 with all of my coaching staff and the conditioning I’m in. I just want to look better in my next fight. I want to be noticeably better the next time around.”
During the scrap, Rothwell dropped Struve with an accidental groin strike in the first round. A visibly upset Rothwell could only stand by as he watched Struve writhe in pain on the canvas. Rothwell would then find himself in a similar situation in the third frame as he connected with a second accidental strike, dropping Struve once again, this time drawing a point deduction.
Knowing he was down on the scorecards due to the penalty, Rothwell could only pray Struve would choose to continue fighting rather than accept a victory by disqualification. Even referee Dan Miragliotta was heard telling Struve he would likely win a decision if he chose to continue fighting.
But once Struve strode back out, Rothwell blitzed with a fight-ending combination, taking it out of the judges’ hands in the process.
“I was down because I knew they were taking a point [away],” Rothwell said. “So I’m like ‘they might stop the fight.’ But then I looked at his cornermen and they were like ‘You’ve got to fight, you got the fight. Coast to a win. You got this.’ So, I was pretty sure he was going to keep fighting. Everything was against me. I had to get the finish or else I’d lose another decision.
“So I was pretty confident he was going to fight. That is unfortunate the ref said that because he’s basically just repeating what his cornermen were telling him.”
While Rothwell continued to profess his sympathies towards Struve, he was fully aware this victory—no matter how it came about—allowed his UFC career to carry on.
“I think I was on the chopping block,” Rothwell said. “Let’s be honest, I’ve lost three decisions prior to this. I didn’t get helped, I don’t get finished and I fight to the end. But four losses is four losses and it can’t happen. So, this was crucial.”