Ben Rothwell has shared the Octagon with former champions like Cain Velasquez, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in recent years.
Sunday in Croatia, he’ll add Junior dos Santos to that list in hopes of winning his fifth straight – and third vs. an ex-titleholder – at UFC Fight Night 86.
Rothwell (36-9) is coming off back-to-back submission wins vs. Barnett and Matt Mitrione, along with TKOs vs. Overeem and Brandon Vera.
Dos Santos, meanwhile, is just 2-3 over his last five and has come under fire about whether or not he can make another title run.
None of that matters to Rothwell, who is expecting the very best “Cigano” when they meet.
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he said, during a recent interview on UFC Tonight. “Why are we talking bad about him? His back’s against the wall. He’s an animal backed into a corner. He’s going to be ferocious. I’ve been training for the champion Junior and he better be all of that because that’s what I’m coming to fight.”
Rothwell knows that dos Santos can land one punch that will finish the fight, but he also believes in his own power.
“I have that too,” he said. “Who knows what he’s going to do? I bring out the best in everybody. I’m sure he’s changing up something in his camp. He throws a hard left hook, a hard left overhand and has added in kicks too. It doesn’t matter. I’m ready for anything.”