After UFC on ESPN 11, it was the event’s opening contest that became the biggest story ever.
On Saturday, Austin Hubbard welcomed newcomer Max Rohskopf to the octagon in light combat. After a competitive first round, Hubbard took over the second in the standup department, creating a trio of 10-8 scorecards.
As the third round was about to begin, Rohskopf repeatedly told his coach Robert Drysdale that it was over and he no longer had it. Finally, they both told the referee that it was all over, and Hubbard scored a much-needed victory.
His discussion of the stool made all the headlines.
Rohskopf took the fight less than a week in advance and was a highly touted prospect, racking up a 5-0 record, all submission wins, in promotions such as the Final Fight Championship and Titan FC.
The 25-year-old already knew that great things would eventually come his way, but with the UFC going back to work, he saw a potential life-changing opportunity suddenly in front of him.
“We were planning the Contender Series in August, but with all this pandemic and fighting in Las Vegas, I definitely thought there was a possibility of a fight on short notice,” Rohskopf told MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “I did my best to prepare for that, but I had a couple of injuries that I couldn’t train as hard as I could.
“Before the fight, I could only train hard for a couple of days. For me, I don’t think that should matter. I wanted to be a boy, I still want to be a guy who shows up to fight no matter what, regardless of having a camp or something like that, because I think that’s overlooked a little bit. I was going to go with the flow, and just based on how I felt in training, I thought I was ready. ”
Hubbard, a former LFA lightweight champion, entered the UFC in May 2019 and lost a unanimous decision to Davi Ramos. The prominent Elevation Fight Team won its first promotional fight four months later against Kyle Prepolec before dropping another decision against former Olympian Mark O. Madsen.
Lost in the confusion of Rohskopf’s loss was Hubbard’s first ending in the octagon, with the former shaking his head.
“I think it is absolutely disgusting that people are not talking about Austin and its performance,” said Rohskopf. “His back was against the wall. If I had come out to beat him, he would have been 1-3 in the UFC, which wouldn’t look good. No one should be talking about me, they should be talking about Austin and his acting.
“In any case, they should be exaggerating it more than it beat a guy who had a lot of hype.” And maybe that’s all it is, just hype. “
Since Saturday night, many fingers have been pointed. At the official post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White was asked about the fight and explained that Rohskopf manager Brian Butler continually beat the matchmakers to give the young fighter a chance.
Once he succeeded, Rohskopf was unable to fully process the challenge imposed on him. So he doesn’t blame anyone but himself.
“I had a lot of emotions that I haven’t really processed yet,” Rohskopf said of receiving the call. “My manager and my coaches know that if you’ve ever been to the gym with me, there are fucking legends and stories that people tell.
“I think what my manager did was 100 percent correct. You’ve been in the sport long enough to know when someone has the skill 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 who watches me train around me knows that I have the skills and ability to do it. I just didn’t show it on Saturday. It is no one’s fault that I was in that situation except mine.
“No one should be nervous about that.”
Once Rohskopf walked towards the octagon and was announced by Bruce Buffer, he had a relaxed and stoic state of mind. No octagon shaking, no proverbial shaking cage. It was where he felt he belonged at the time.
As it has in the past, things changed in an instant.
“I have done this during almost all of my fights,” Rohskopf said. “I have been aware of how I perform at my best and that is keeping calm, understanding what is happening and things like that. I try to stay as calm as possible, because once I lose that, my Achilles heel, my weakness is what happened on Saturday.
“I have done this all my life. I have self-boycotted. Even when I was struggling in high school, I was the best in the state and I finished third because I boycotted myself. I was one of the best boys in the country in college, I was never an All-American when I counted, because I kept telling myself that, for whatever reason, I don’t deserve it.
“That’s exactly what I did in my fight with Austin. Sh * t got tough, 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. “
In the first round, Hubbard was winning the foot swaps, but Rohskopf was able to show off a few flashes of brilliance that amounted to the hype surrounding him. He took Hubbard’s back while standing and delivered a beautiful belly-to-back punch and worked for the introductions. Hubbard was able to stand up and began to score.
After a five-minute competitive start, two judges scored for Hubbard, one for Rohskopf.
“After the first few seconds, I really don’t know what happened,” said Rohskopf. “I knew he had takedowns or whatever, and he wasn’t very active on the field, I don’t think, at least not what I’m used to.” I really don’t know how they would have marked it. I’m not really sure if I won it or not.
“That is not me at all. There were some training sessions where sharks were sinking me, [and] My coaches are confused because I have new guys that come nonstop and I stay cool, serene and never tire. Things don’t bother me there, but for some reason, when I was there, it all fell apart for me. I think I have a lot of mental problems that I have to solve in the future. “
At one point, Rohskopf worked on a heel hook and knee bar and looked tight. It wasn’t enough to force the tap, but the prominent fighter believed it was close.
“That sucked. I thought I screwed that up, ”said Rohskopf with a smile. “I remember the things that happened, but I don’t remember them chronologically or shit.”
The second round was a different story. Rohskopf rushed early with a shot from Imanari and got a takedown. While working to improve his position, Hubbard stood up again, scoring kicks to his opponent’s legs and body. Whenever Rohskopf sought to shoot, Hubbard found him with one knee in the middle.
“Thud” was living up to his nickname, pouring it onto the rookie with punches to the face and body. Rohskopf visibly tired, and when the round came to an end, his doubt was at its height.
During the now infamous conversation with Drysdale, Rohskopf said he did not have one. When asked at what point in the fight he felt that way, he revealed that it was early.
“In the first two minutes,” said Rohskopf. “That only comes from me. People who know me and who have talked to me will understand this type of deeply: I am so ambitious that walking through the day to day, I am almost never happy.
“I always try to improve, improve and my weakness is that sometimes I will try to escape from what is happening because it hurts a little every day. I’m trying to do something I want more than anything and sometimes it’s hard to see that things aren’t the way you want them to be. “
After honking the second round horn, Rohskopf sat on his stool and that’s where the controversy arose.
Drysdale began the dialogue with his fighter, saying, “We have this, champion.” Rohskopf immediately asked his coach to call him. While the former undefeated fighter and highly decorated black belt continually attempted to encourage his fighter to continue, Rohskopf insisted that the fight be stopped.
Speaking to MMA Fighting after the fight, Drysdale said he did not regret motivating his fighter to continue and that he “would do it again.”
When asked about it back and forth and how close he was to getting back there, Rohskopf replied, “Very (close).”
The relationship between Rohskopf and Drysdale goes far beyond the norm for an athlete and his coach.
“If the commission was not there, I would have recovered, I think,” said Rohskopf. “It would have come out and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The fucking man gave me a place to live when I needed a place to live, so I didn’t have to live in my damn car.
“Actually, I didn’t want to have anything to do with MMA until I knocked on his door and said, ‘Hello, man. I need help and I want you to train me. He has done nothing but be there for me and do everything he can for me. So for people to go out there and say they were wrong in that situation, there is literally no debate or discussion about it. At the end of the day, I’m the one who pays you, and that’s what I wanted you to do. That’s what I expected him to do and if he was cornering someone else, that’s what he would do.
“There really is no discussion about it. Rob did the right thing and always did it right for me. “
As criticism increased towards the duo, it became too difficult to handle. In a recent interview with ESPN, Drysdale revealed that on Sunday, Rohskopf contacted Drysdale to register.
It was undoubtedly an emotional conversation from Rohskopf’s perspective.
“It was difficult because I know he has put a lot of time and effort into me,” said Rohskopf. “He believes in me. In fact, I deleted all my social networks. I really haven’t seen anything but one or two things that people sent me, or my best friends, or some things that people wanted to talk to me about. I listened to him and immediately wanted to make sure Rob was okay.
“That’s the main reason why I’m talking about it because he doesn’t deserve it at all. He only deserves praise for helping me get where I am and trying to do everything I can for someone like me who just asked for it, and not for anything in exchange for value. ”
In all sports, it is a battle between the physical and the mental; trying to align the two together in perfect harmony. MMA is not like other sports. The second assumption is just as common, more than any other sport on the planet.
With hindsight being so prevalent in the fighting game, Rohskopf was asked if he regretted taking the fight, especially with the way everything played out.
“No,” said Rohskopf. “I have been a fighter all my life and every thing I know, I have had to learn the hard way because I am so hard.” I am grateful for that. I am grateful to the UFC for giving me the opportunity. I am grateful for Austin and his performance.
“I wish I could sit down and say, ‘I wish I didn’t fight, I wish things could be different.’ In fact, I say this to my kids that I train: ‘Great things don’t happen from easy things.’ This shit is very hard. and it will only improve me.
“I think it is now up to me to take those lessons and put them to good use.”
When asked if he will have another chance with the UFC, he thinks the door has not yet closed.
“Yes, I think I will (another chance),” said Rohskopf.
Of course, there is the unfortunate alternative, one that Rohskopf is prepared for if the door closes and closes behind him.
“Yes, I think that would be fine with that too.”