by Dane McGuire

In a surprising turn of events, an upcoming bout between UFC heavyweight veteran Ben Rothwell and Alexander Gustafsson set for May is now off. Rothwell’s release was confirmed by UFC officials to MMA Fighting Thursday.


Neither Rothwell or his management team have responded to MMA Fighting’s request for comment at this time.


MMA Fighting also notes:


“As of now, there’s no word on what exactly led to Rothwell’s release or who will be replacing him in the fight against Gustafsson on May 21.”


Rothwell, 40, last competed in November in the second TKO defeat of his career, a standing TKO loss which occurred in just 32 seconds.


The loss to Marcos Rogerio de Lima was Rothwell’s first knockout defeat since losing to Cain Velasquez back in 2009—in Rothwell’s UFC debut according to


MMA Junkie reports prior to UFC officials confirming the news, algorithm-based Twitter account UFC Roster Watch tweeted Thursday that Rothwell was removed from the online rankings pool.


Before leaving the UFC, Rothwell had most recently lost two of three fights but had won three of his last five.


The bout with Rothwell would have been Gustafsson’s his second appearance as a heavyweight. He is currently 0-1 in the division following a debut loss to one-time champion Fabricio Werdum in July 2020.


MMA Fighting reported in February:


“Following the loss, Gustafsson prepared to return to 205 and was scheduled to face Paul Craig last September but was forced from the bout due to injury. He is currently on a three-fight losing skid, and 18-7 overall in his MMA career.”


Rothwell had been with the UFC for 17 fights over a 13-year span. As of this writing Gustafsson has not yet commented on the situation.


Rothwell signed with the UFC in 2009. He exits with a 9-8 record after those 17 bouts. His overall record stands at 39-14. ‘Big Ben’ leaves with noteworthy wins against Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Matt Mitrione, Ovince Saint Preux, and Brendan Schaub.