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UFC 135: Ben Rothwell is back and ready to make a run at the heavyweight title

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Anyone remember Ben Rothwell?

He's the guy who signed with International Fight League (IFL) back in 2006 and fought nine times over the span of 17 months and won every single fight, defeating the likes of Ricco Rodriguez, Krzysztof Soszynski (x2) and "Big Country" himself, Roy Nelson

By the time he made it to the big show, he already had 36 professional bouts under his belt, a winner of 30, and was just 28-years-old.

Then it all went wrong.

He made his Octagon debut at UFC 104 against Cain Velasquez. That's right; "Big Ben" was one of the heavyweight champion's victims on his unprecedented way to the top.

But the fight was mired in controversy thanks to a questionable stoppage from oft criticized referee Steve Mazzagatti. Rothwell was well on his way to losing, anyway, but the point stands.

He rebounded by defeating Gilbert Yvel at UFC 115 but, of course, he suffered greatly for his troubles, sustaining a torn ACL in his knee and a deviated septum. He's been on the shelf ever since.

But he's back now, finally, to take on Mark Hunt at UFC 135 on Sept. 24 and as he tells Cagewriter, he's a whole new beast:

"I've really worked hard on myself. It's not a comeback. It's an unveiling. I have been off for more than a year, and instead of using it as a layoff I've used it as a huge building block. I posted a few pictures, and people said, 'Whoa, this guy ain't the same.' When I came back to Duke, he said, 'People who are off because of an injury usually gain 20 lbs. You look like you've lost 20 lbs.' ... A lot of these guys, especially champions, I see how they act, and it enrages me. It's not right. It's not fair. I fight for the fans because without them, I wouldn't be able to do this. A lot of guys talk the talk, but people know when they meet me, I smile in my pictures. I love giving autographs because I am very thankful for everyone that's made the sport possible. That motivating factor has made me who I am now, and it's time to go out and take what's mine."

Despite all his troubles since joining the UFC, Rothwell believes he can make an extended run with the promotion and maybe even make his way back to a rematch with Velasquez.

If not, the heavyweight title will have to do.

And if he gets it, don't expect his success to go to his head. Bring your replica belt with you to his autograph signings because, unlike some, he'll actually sign it for you.

His journey to the top begins anew in Denver, Colorado this fall against Mark Hunt, a seasoned veteran in his own right. It won't be easy but that's kind of the point, isn't it?

Is Rothwell a future heavyweight titleholder? Or just another nice guy with a dream that will never come true?

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