Ben Rothwell‘s stint in the UFC hasn’t gone the way he’d hoped. After a TKO loss to Cain Velasquez during his Octagon debut in October 2009, the former IFL standout followed it up with a unanimous decision win over Gilbert Yvel that cost him his ACL. Now, 15 months later, he’s coming into his UFC 135 match against Mark Hunt this weekend with a completely new mindset. As he told Ariel Helwani:
“I don’t even feel like I’m the same person now. I feel like in one year I’ve really made some major changes, and it’s gonna be pretty obvious September 24th what I’m talking about…I’m definitely coming into this fight [and] I’m 0-0. This Ben Rothwell is 0-0 coming in the UFC.”
In a way, this is the inverse of bringing back your old self. Rothwell isn’t looking to re-live the past. He wants to come back as a brand-new Ben — a clean slate, removed from all the real-life setbacks he’s suffered over the last three years. A fictional character, in other words.
Is Rothwell the first fighter to look to the future by ignoring the past? Not at all. In fact, this “0-0 fighter” thing is becoming a running gag in MMA. Melvin Guillard claimed to be 0-0 after losing to Nate Diaz. (He’s 5-0 now, if you’re keeping score.) Tyron Woodley called himself 0-0 after his lackluster win over Nathan Coy. Phil Davis thinks of himself as 0-0 every time he fights, as does Johnny Hendricks. So why all the hate for official records?
In the case of Rothwell and Guillard, I think it shows a bit of disrespect for the fighters who managed to beat them. Cain Velasquez and Nate Diaz should be proud of those victories — but the implication is that those guys beat inferior, outdated versions of Rothwell and Guillard, and if they fought again today, well, it would be a different story.
Look, Rothwell isn’t 0-0, he’s 31-7. And he’s come a long way since the days of beating the crap out of fat kids at local shows for gas money, which is something he should take pride in. Still, this “completely different fighter” routine needs to be retired. Unless Rothwell comes out shooting fireballs from his eyes and levitating around the cage, it’ll always feel like an exaggeration. No fighter is exactly the same from one match to the next.
If you’re going to devote your life to MMA, you have to accept that it will be filled with ups and downs, and those downs are going to suck. But there’s no reset button on life, as much as you’d like there to be. So own it.
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