|Cain Velasquez hopes to spoil Ben Rothwell's octagon debut at UFC 104. (UFC Photo)
For many up-and-coming fighters, the goal is clear -- make it to the UFC and all your hard work has paid off.
However, for (Big) Ben Rothwell, the objective was never as simple. The former IFL heavyweight admits to passing on previous offers to join the top mixed martial arts organization.
"I'm ecstatic to be here finally, but I'd say there were two big opportunities (in the past)," Rothwell said. "One came right after the IFL (folded) and the other was maybe prior to the IFL (opening its doors). Management and myself decided that we would just continue to wait because, for me, I didn't want to be one of those guys who was just happy to get into the UFC.
"You know, you see a lot of these guys that come and go, and that just isn't me. My objective all along has been to come into the UFC as a somebody...and then finish my career there. The only way you can finish your career there is if you win fights and make a name for yourself. Obviously I've done something right because they've put me on the poster and made me (a part of) the co-main event."
Rothwell (30-6) is set to make his octagon debut Oct. 24 at UFC 104 against undefeated heavyweight prospect Cain Velasquez (6-0). The show will be headlined by a light-heavyweight championship bout between Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida and Mauricio (Shogun) Rua.
Though Rothwell chalks up his top spot on the card to his impressive fight record, he did have a little bit of luck on his side.
Originally, Rothwell was scheduled to face Chase Gormley, while Velasquez was set to square off with Shane Carwin at UFC 104. However, without an opponent for heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, the UFC brass decided instead to give Carwin a title shot in November, opening the doors for Rothwell to be bumped up to the co-main event slot.
"I feel great about the fight because I was going to fight a guy that nobody had heard of," Rothwell said. "That doesn't mean the guy's not tough, that just means it's a fight where you've got everything to lose and not much to gain.
"I want to be fighting with the guys that are names in the UFC. I want to be a name in the UFC, as well. That's the only way -- you've got to be in there fighting the guys that people know. So I'm very excited for the fight."
As for Velasquez, he admits being disappointed that Carwin was given the title shot over him.
"It was discouraging at first, but...then they gave me Ben Rothwell after that," Velasquez said. "I have to focus on the task at hand and that's having a good fight with him.
"I think a lot of fans out there know who he is -- they've seen him in the IFL and he has a great following. It's going to be an exciting fight, for sure. I mean, he's always going out there and putting on a show."
A win over Rothwell will no doubt put him closer to a title shot, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee one. It's rumoured that Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira will face the winner of Lesnar vs. Carwin.
"That's for the UFC to decide; whatever they decide, I feel it will be right," Velasquez said. "I do believe that I will get my chance."
In his last fight, Velasquez earned a unanimous decision over top contender Cheick Kongo. However, he expects a much more difficult bout with Rothwell.
"I think he's extremely well-rounded," Velasquez said. "He's been in this game for a while. He has great hands and kicks -- he has everything to offer when he fights.
"His takedown defence is better than Cheick's, so I won't be able to (take him down and control him as easily). We'll see when we get there...but I do believe I'll have a tougher time there."