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Coach: ‘I did the right thing’ by refusing to stop Max Rohskopf’s fight at UFC on ESPN 11

UFC Fight Night: Hubbard v Rohskopf
Hubbard won by TKO after Max Rohskopf (pictured) failed to make it out for the third round
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Former UFC fighter Robert Drysdale tried to talk Max Rohskopf out of quitting on the stool during his UFC on ESPN 11 fight with Austin Hubbard on Saturday night, and he’s adamant he did the right thing.

Rohskopf, who took the fight on just five days’ notice, had a good start, but got dominated in the second stanza. The then-undefeated lightweight kept telling Drysdale to “call it,” but Drysdale insisted his protege could bounce back and win the round and subsequently the decision.

For Drysdale, the main issue was that Rohskopf was disappointed with his performance at the UFC APEX, and that affected him mentally.

“I don’t regret it,” Drysdale told MMA Fighting after the fight. “I did the right thing. I’d do it again. If I could change one thing, I would have insisted more because he wasn’t hurt. The coach’s job is to take the athlete to the extreme technically, physically and mentally. I think he lost his head there. He got tired and his head got weak.

“I’m a coach, it’s my obligation to… I want what’s best for him, I worry about him, and it’s my obligation to give him a mental push. ‘Brother, don’t give up, you won’t give up.’ I do that every day in the gym, he’s tired and I say, ‘One more round.’ That’s my job. If I’m there, and I let the guy quit on the first adversity, I’m not doing my job right.

“This is not criticism, it’s love. It’s because I worry about my athletes and I want what’s best for them, and I’m not wrong. If I were the one on the stool, tired, dead, I would expect my coaches to do the same with me. Never let me give up. It’s the coach’s job. I want excellence from my fighters, I want nothing but excellence. I’m not wrong. People will talk, let them talk, but I’m not wrong.”

Drysdale says he’s not disappointed with Rohskopf, whom he sees as “a little brother to me,” and believes the UFC newcomer had what it took to win the final five minutes.

“He took the fight on five days’ notice knowing that his cardio wasn’t there — he lost to his cardio, that’s when the loss started,” he said. “The fight was even — it’s not like he was getting beat up. He won the first round and lost the second, he wasn’t getting beat up. He could have returned to the third with his head in the right place, with the right strategy, the one I was trying to give him, and we would win the decision. But I think he got too excited to catch the guy too quickly and got tired.”

Rohskopf was just 5-0 in his professional career — including one bout inside the Titan FC cage — when he agreed to replace Joe Solecki against Hubbard, a former LFA lightweight titleholder. Hubbard, now 2-2 in the UFC and 12-4 overall in his MMA career, doesn’t think he was experienced enough to be in the cage with him.

“I think he realized he was in over his head a little bit and I think also that he knew he had nothing for me on the feet and I had a lot for him,” Hubbard said after the fight. “I think he realized he’s in over his head, he’s a very talented person, a lot of good attributes, but he’s really green in his career still, he’s 5-0. There’s a lot to learn, I think someone told me he fought one opponent over .500.

“This is the next level. I fought a lot of people that were really good before I got here into the UFC. I won multiple regional titles before I got here to the UFC and I’m really thankful about that. I got into the UFC at 10-2 which seems kinda long, it was longer at the time than I wanted, but it gave me that experience that I need to be here now and I’m super thankful for that and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Drysdale doesn’t agree that Rohskopf was “too green” for the UFC and predicts a bright future for him inside the octagon.

“Getting off the couch and fighting in the UFC is never a good idea,” Drysdale said. “The guy’s on the couch, coming off a quarantine, getting back to training, and accepts to fight in the UFC on five days’ notice, and three of those five days were to cut weight. He didn’t train, he had no camp. That’s never good. But, on the other hand, kids are hungry. They want to get in the UFC. When the UFC knocks on your door, it’s hard for them to say no, it’s too tempting.

“I understand Max wanting to fight. Technically, he’s ready (for the UFC). He was exposed in the physical area. He made a tactical mistake that exposed his cardio that wore him out mentally. He wasn’t hurt. He’s too critical on himself and was affected by the second round, but that’s something we will talk and fix. We will come back stronger next time. That’s an important lesson he learned this early in his career.”

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