Ben Rothwell is officially on the hunt for the BKFC heavyweight title.
The former UFC heavyweight contender pushed his bare-knuckle boxing record to 2-0 this past Saturday at BKFC 41 with a third-round stoppage of Josh Copeland. However, after scoring a 19-second knockout in his promotional debut, Rothwell’s sophomore appearance in the bare-knuckle boxing ring wound up being a much tougher challenge. “Big Ben” was forced to overcome early adversity before turning the tide against Copeland in the second and third frames, ultimately prompting Copeland’s corner to stop the fight between rounds.
“The crazy thing is, most of this right here was done by two punches in the first 10 seconds of the fight,” Rothwell said Monday on The MMA Hour, his right eye still wearing the damage. “Now, he hit me with some smaller shots in the fight, but literally most of this damage was done right away. He caught me a little bit off. I was slow the first round and he took advantage. I felt very much like my last fight in the UFC. I went, ‘I cannot let that happen.’ Because these are heavyweights, man — they only need to get one or two in. He sliced [around my eye], and then he came around with a hook and smashed it.
“What a way to start a fight. So it kind of woke me up a little bit and I got into the groove of the first round, and yeah, I sat down [between rounds] — I’ll tell you, the first time I sat down, I had one minute to get my s*** straight. I go, ‘You’re about the blow it, man. You’re a -600 favorite,’ which I hate, by the way. I absolutely hate that. I hate that kind of pressure. It’s just a greater fall. You lose this fight and you’re going to be the talk of the biggest loser.
“And I’m like, everything in my head, like, ‘Dude, I need to win. I have a set amount of fights left in front of me and I need to win them all so I can walk away complete,’” Rothwell continued. “And I sat on that stool and I had to get it right, and I said, ‘I know what I have to do.’ And the next two rounds, you’ve seen I implemented myself.”
Rothwell, 41, is now in the thick of the BKFC heavyweight championship picture.
“Big Ben” said Monday that he has one fight left on his contract but he hopes to continue competing for BKFC for the foreseeable future. There’s a good chance that happens too, because Rothwell’s next fight could be a big one. After his latest win, Rothwell called out BKFC heavyweight champion Alan Belcher, who was sitting ringside for the fights.
A former UFC middleweight, Belcher is another of BKFC’s crossover success stories. The 38-year-old MMA veteran is 4-0 as a muscled-up heavyweight in bare-knuckle boxing with three knockouts, including a third-round gem over former two-time champion Arnold Adams in February that crowned him as the new BKFC heavyweight king.
The fight between Belcher and Rothwell appears to be an obvious next step, but Rothwell isn’t so sure whether the champ is willing and interested.
“I’ll tell you, he’s not too keen on fighting me,” Rothwell said.
“His attitude, man — he’s just kind of not who I thought he was. He’s having problems. He’s a talented fighter, but outside of it he’s just kind of saying some really silly s*** to me. He’s run into me a couple times. He’s saying stuff that I’m like, ‘Are you serious right now?’
“He has a problem with the weight class,” Rothwell added. “So that’s a big problem. He’s goes, ‘I’m 220 pounds.’ Well, that’s your problem. I go, ‘Get out of the heavyweight division then.’ What’s your problem?”
Rothwell, of course, is a gargantuan heavyweight. He tipped the scales at 292.3 pounds and 287 pounds for his two BKFC appearances, and said Monday that he generally walks around at more than 300 pounds. Belcher, on the other hand, has weighed anywhere from 220 pounds to 230 pounds for the majority of his bare-knuckle boxing bouts.
BKFC’s heavyweight division is officially classified as anything above 210 pounds.
“There’s big thing going on right now about that whole thing,” Rothwell said, “because each state commissions it differently, or they’re saying different weight classes. So far, most of the states I’ve talked to were like, ‘Hey, it’s whatever BKFC says. We’ll take after boxing.’ But then some of the states apparently don’t do boxing or MMA, so they don’t know how to regulate it, so they don’t know if they should use this weight class or that. Whatever the case is, Dave [Feldman] said, ‘You be 285.’ I go, ‘I’ll be 285. Make that your limit.’
“I’ll be honest with you — come on, man, I’m not ripped — I think I can do myself a favor and cut down a little bit,” Rothwell continued. “During the UFC tenure though, I was walking around at 285 most of the time. I think it’s OK, I can get down there. And then I don’t have to worry about cutting weight and I’ll still be 285 pounds, I’m still dangerous.
“I’ll be 285 and then that’s it, it’s settled. So I’m like, ‘Belcher, that’s the weight limit. I’ll be 285, dude. You’re the champion of this division. You’ve got to fight me. So shut up about it.’”