Ben Rothwell will not fight in the IFL World Grand Prix in November. He and the organization could not agree on contract terms and his manager, Monte Cox, opted to keep both Rothwell and Mike Whitehead from signing contract extensions that would have made them eligible to compete.
The door is still open for them to sign on for the 2008 season, but the IFL obviously isn’t going to let them compete for a title if they might leave immediately afterwards. The UFC has a similar policy of not allowing fighters to fight for a championship belt if they are on the last fight of their contract, as do most MMA organizations.
Rumors that something like this might happen have been circulating for a while now. I’ve heard from several different people that numerous organizations were bidding for Rothwell’s services. It’s understandable. He’s a great fighter, not to mention a work horse who fought five times in the past nine months for the IFL, and he has a dynamic, marketable personality.
I spoke to Rothwell at length yesterday and he told me he’d really like to stay in the IFL, but it’s a financial decision at this point. He said the IFL felt like home to him and didn’t rule out the possibility of returning in 2008. Personally, I’d love him to stay but wouldn’t think less of him if he didn’t. Business is business, and fighters need to get paid while they can. Pummeling people with your fists, oddly enough, is not a job you can do forever (unless you’re Randy Couture).
My experiences working with Rothwell have been nothing but positive, so wherever he ends up I hope he enjoys the success he deserves. I just hope he doesn’t sign on with organization that might look to exploit him for short term gains.
I also really hope that he doesn’t go the route of Chris Wilson, who left the IFL without another deal in place and has since fought only once for Bodog, defeating Ray Steinbeiss, who was cut from the IFL. Wilson was one of the most exciting welterweights in the league, and while I understood his decision to leave in search of more money it’s sad to see talent like that sit on the shelf (in other words, Bodog, please give Wilson a major fight soon!).
There’s no doubt that the IFL will miss Rothwell if he does leave for good. As IFL Commissioner Kurt Otto was quick to point out, the team format makes it such that one fighter can’t make or break the organization. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be sad to see a guy like Ben go.
The Grand Prix bracket has had to undergo some changes as a result of these developments. Bryan Vetell will now fight Antoine Jaoude in the heavyweight semi-final, with Roy Nelson taking on Reese Andy in the other half of the bracket on Nov. 3. The light heavyweight tournament (which Whitehead was scheduled to compete in) has been decimated by injuries and will now have only one match in Chicago between Vladimir Matyushenko and Alex Schoenauer with the title on the line.