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Rothwell: Accepting fight with dos Santos was 'stupid', I wasn't thinking 'rationally'

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Ben Rothwell says accepting a fight with Junior dos Santos at UFC Fight Night 86 was a strategic mistake.

Things were on the up-and-up for Ben Rothwell heading into 2016. The 6'4" heavyweight had established himself as a serious contender within the division and was surging with a new-found confidence after stringing together a series of impressive wins. Then he ran into former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.

It signalled the end of Rothwell's four-fight win streak, who lost in a unanimous decision to dos Santos in the main event of UFC Zagreb on April 10. The #5 ranked HW contender was soundly outboxed, but lumbered forward looking to land the KO until the final bell.

The loss stings for Rothwell, who was hoping a win over 'Cigano' would provide him with the ammunition needed for a title shot against the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic at UFC 198. Reflecting on the decision making in his training camp, 'Big' Ben is disappointed he ever accepted the fight with dos Satnos in the first place.

The Wisconsin-based slugger recently spoke about the loss to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, per Shaun Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting.

"I was on a four-fight win streak and I took on a guy off a loss. It was a stupid fight for me, strategically," he said.

"There some regret and there's not. I think more, not regret, but a learning lesson. I think right after the fights, I need to be locked up and somebody else needs to take my phone and take my wallet, because I get crazy after a fight. It's when I do crazy interviews, it's when I'm off the wall, and I think I get high off the wins. I don't know what it is, but it's obvious I'm not thinking rationally at the time. It was good for the UFC because they got to fill a main event. It was just a strategically stupid fight."

Despite the loss, Rothwell is optimistic about his future and draws inspiration from reinvigorated welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.

"I just look back at my friend Robbie Lawler. He made his resurgence, got to that title fight," Rothwell said. "Mine wasn't a title fight but I feel it could've been. He lost a five-round decision only to come back, and look what's he done now. I feel like I'm very much just a heavyweight version of him. I'm following behind him. I learned a lot in this five-round fight.

"I might have taken a loss on my record, but I'm far from defeated. In fact, I'm very much the opposite. I think that fight gave me the fuel and the knowledge that I needed to really take myself to being the best mixed martial artist that I can be, and that's my new goal. There's no more about the title. I'm done chasing something I have no control over. I'm back to why I started this sport, and it's to find out how good I can really be. With each and every fight from here on out, that's my focus."

UFC 198 and UFC 200 will paint a clearer picture of the heavyweight landscape when Werdum defends his title against Miocic and former two-time champ Cain Velasquez takes on Travis Browne. Rothwell will be keeping a keen eye on both fights, and also has Andrei Arlovski in his crosshairs as a potential opponent.

"That's the three fights I've really been paying attention to, and I feel like my next opponent would be taking on one of those six guys. Most likely, one of the losers of those six guys," Rothwell said.

"I'm more pushing for the loser of Stipe-Werdum or obviously Arlovski now. I'll happily rematch Overeem but I don't think he's too interested in that right now, so obviously I'm going to be seeing what Arlovksi wants to do and if the UFC wants that, or obviously the loser of Stipe and Werdum would be an excellent fight as well. One of those, I'd really like to push for, because Browne and Velasquez are not until July, and then who knows."

UFC 198, which will host a championship tilt between Werdum and Miocic in the main event, takes place on May 14 at Arena Da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil. UFC 200 is scheduled for July 9 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.