Last weekend’s UFC Vegas 3 card provided the fans with some great fights, but the first match of the evening between lightweights Austin Hubbard and Max Rohskopf provided a hot topic of conversation in the days that followed, dividing the MMA community.
The first round was quite even, but Hubbard took the second round convincingly. Then came the big talking point, after Rohskopf told his coach Robert Drysdale, between the second and third round that he was done. To which his coach refused to let him quit and encouraged him to continue.
After one minute break expired, they both agreed with the officials that Rohskopf wasn’t going to continue and the fight was stopped, making Hubbard the winner via second round TKO.
Rohskopf took the opportunity to compete in the Octagon on just five days notice, and went into his UFC debut with a record of 5-0, with all submission finishes. Speaking to MMA Fighting he reflected on the whole experience before, during, and after the event.
“We were planning on the Contender Series in August, but with this whole pandemic thing, and with fights being in Vegas, I definitely thought there was a possibility for a short notice fight,” he said. “I tried my best to try and prepare for that, but I had a couple of injuries where I wasn’t able to train as hard as I can.
“Leading up to the fight, I only got to train hard for a couple of days,” Rohskopf continued. “To me, I don’t think that should matter. I wanted to be a guy, I still want to be a guy that shows up to fight no matter what, regardless of having a camp or any of that s***, because I think that’s a little bit overlooked. I was just gonna go with the flow, and just based on how I felt in training, I thought I was ready.”
Rohskopf doesn’t like the fact that all the headlines are about him and not about Hubbard’s excellent performance.
“I think that it’s absolutely disgusting that people aren’t talking about Austin and his performance. His back was against the wall,” he said. “If I would’ve went out there and beat him, he would’ve been 1-3 in the UFC, which wouldn’t have looked good. No one should be f***in’ talking about me, they should be talking about Austin and his performance.
“If anything, they should be hyping him up more that he beat a dude that had a lot of hype. And maybe that’s all that it is, just hype.”
Many have discussed the possible causes of his bad performance, but Rohskopf believes nobody should be blamed except him.
“I had a lot of emotions that I still haven’t really processed. My manager and my coaches know that if you’ve ever been in the gym with me, there’s f***in’ legends and stories that people say.
“I think what my manager did was 100 percent spot on. He’s been in the sport long enough to know when someone has the ability and the talent to do it. I’ve been around guys who have won world titles in multiple sports—kickboxing, boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, MMA—and everyone around me that’s watched me train knows that I have the skills and the ability to do it. I just didn’t show it on Saturday. It’s no one’s fault that I was in that situation except for mine.
“No one should be getting flack for that.”
Rohskopf explained the true cause of him quitting the fight, despite feeling calm and confident in the beginning.
“I’ve done that for pretty much all my fights. I’ve been aware of how I perform at my best and that’s by staying calm, understanding what’s happening and stuff like that,” he said. “I do try and stay as calm as I possibly can, because once I lose that, my Achilles heel, my weakness is what happened on Saturday.
“I’ve done this my whole life. I’ve self-boycotted myself,” Rohskopf continued. ”Even when I was wrestling in high school, I was the best in the state and ended up getting third because I self-boycotted myself. I was one of the best guys in the country in college, was never an All-American when it counted, because I was telling myself that, for whatever reason, I don’t deserve it.
“That’s exactly what I did in my fight with Austin. S*** got hard, and I looked at my coach and said, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I didn’t think I deserved to be there.”
Things started falling apart for Rohskopf after the first round, which was fairly competitive, and he attributed his downfall to psychological factors rather than physical ones.
“After the first few seconds, I don’t really know what happened. I knew I got the takedowns or whatever, and I wasn’t very active on the ground, I don’t think, at least not what I’m used to doing. I don’t really know how they would’ve scored it. I’m not really sure if I won it or not.
“That’s not me at all. There were a few sparring sessions where I was getting shark tanked, [and] my coaches get confused because I have fresh guys coming at me non-stop and I stay fresh, composed, and not getting tired. Stuff doesn’t rattle me there, but for whatever reason, when I was in there everything just kind of fell apart for me. I think I’ve got a lot of mental problems that I have to fix moving forward.”
Rohskopf also remembered one moment when he caught Hubbard’s leg in a submission attempt, and he thought he was close to finishing the fight.
“That sucked,” he said. “ I thought I f***in’ had that. I remember things that happened, but I don’t remember them chronologically or s*** like that.”
Although the real trouble for him started in the second round, Rohskopf revealed that he started feeling doubtful early on.
“In the first two minutes. That just comes from me,” he said. “People who know me and who have talked to me will understand this kind of deeply: I’m so ambitious that walking around day-to-day, I’m almost never happy.
“I’m always trying to do better, to get better and my weakness is sometimes I will try to run away from what’s happening because I’m hurting a little bit every single day. I’m trying to do something that I want more than anything and it’s hard sometimes to see that things aren’t the way you want them to be.”
His coach Drysdale got some heat for trying to convince his athlete to stay in the fight despite the negative feedback. Nonetheless, he has no remorse for his actions as he thinks it was a right thing to do. Rohskopf defended him as well, and even stated that he was “very [close]” to getting back into the Octagon.
“If the commission wasn’t there, he would’ve got me back I think. I would’ve went out there and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The man f***in gave me a place to live when I needed somewhere to live, so I didn’t have to live in my f***in’ car.
“I actually didn’t want anything to do with MMA until I knocked on his door and was like, ‘Hey, man. I need help and I want you to coach me.’ He’s done nothing but be there for me and do everything he can for me. So for people to come out and say that he was wrong in that situation, there’s literally no debate or discussion about it. At the end of the day, I’m the one paying him and that’s what I wanted him to do. That’s what I expected him to do and if I was cornering someone else, that’s what I would do.
“There’s really no discussion about it. Rob did the right thing and he’s always done right by me.”
The whole affair made his coach look bad in the eyes of many, but according to Rohskopf, Drysdale deserves only praise.
“It was hard because I know he’s put a lot of time and effort into me,” Rohskopf said. “He believes in me. I actually deleted all my social media. I haven’t really seen anything other than one or two things the people sent me, or my best friends, or some things that people wanted to talk to me about. I heard about it and I immediately wanted to make sure Rob was okay.
“That’s the main reason why I’m talking about it because he doesn’t deserve that at all. He only deserves praise for helping me to get where I got and trying to do everything he can for someone like me that just asked for it, and not for anything in return of value.”
Although the fight didn’t go well for him, Rohskopf doesn’t regret accepting it.
“No. I’ve been a fighter my whole life and every single thing that I know, I’ve had to learn the hard way because I’m a f***in’ hard head,” he said. “I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for the UFC for giving me the opportunity. I’m thankful for Austin and his performance.
“I wish I could sit back and say, ‘I wish I didn’t take the fight, I wish that things could be different.’ I actually say this to my kids that I coach, ‘Great things don’t happen from easy things.’ This ***t’s f***in’ hard and it’s only going to make me better.
“I think that it’s just up to me now to take those lessons and put them to good use.”
He thinks that he will get another chance to show that he learned these lessons in the Octagon.
“Yeah, I think I will [get another shot].”
But if that doesn’t happen, Rohskopf will not be too bothered.
“Yeah, I think I’d be okay with that, too,” he concluded.
Do you think Max Rohskopf will get another chance in the UFC?