When Max Rohskopf quit on the stool in his UFC debut, there were a lot of mixed opinions about his actions but one fighter who stood up for the lightweight prospect was former title contender Anthony Smith.
At the time it sounded like a strange comment coming from Smith after he revealed following a loss to Glover Teixeira that he’s demanded his corner never throw in the towel for one of his fights no matter the result. As Smith explained it, he’s in a much different situation with his experience and understanding of the sport than Rohskopf, who was four fights into his career when he accepted a UFC fight on less than one week’s notice.
“People were kind of roasting me saying ‘well you didn’t want pulled out of there but now you’re going to stick up for him wanting out.’ These people are not hearing what I’m saying,” Smith explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’m not saying you leave every motherf**ker out there until they’re a dead body. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I want it to be my decision. That’s what the point is. It needs to be the fighter’s decision if he wants to fight and if he doesn’t. That was my point.
“If I want to fight, then god**mmit as long as I’m doing everything the referee’s asking me and I’m protecting myself to the best of my abilities and I’m conscious. I want to fight. If Max doesn’t, then get him out of there. Let him go home. He doesn’t want to be there right now. Send him home and let him figure out what he wants to do with himself. Don’t leave him in there to get wrecked and if he hasn’t ever faced adversity before in a fight and you don’t know if he can push through or not, you don’t need to force him to right then and there.”
Following Rohskopf’s loss, UFC president Dana White actually defended his decision to stop the fight if he no longer wanted to be in there. A few weeks later, the UFC released Rohskopf from his contract, which on the surface could have sent a dangerous message to athletes about stopping a fight themselves versus taking additional damage until the referee or their corner throw in the towel.
Smith doesn’t see it that way, however, because he believes Rohskopf’s release was much more about his readiness to fight in the UFC than it was quitting on the stool.
“Max expected to be cut,” Smith said. “He expected that he was going to be cut. When I talked to him, he was willing to go on the regional scene and prove himself and get the toughest fights possible and do what he’s got to do to get another shot. I’ve heard nothing but great things about that kid. I’ve heard nothing but people saying he doesn’t quit, he’s not a quitter.
“Regardless of what people will say, I still don’t think Max is a quitter. I think he took a short notice fight and got in over his head. I think he’s used to running through people and when Austin Hubbard was still there, I don’t think he knew how to react.”
While Smith now finds himself in a place where he will never ask his corner to stop a fight thanks to years upon years of experience, it took him time to understand that about himself.
He expects Rohskopf will learn those same lessons but now five fights into his career, he just hasn’t gone through those battles to understand how he should react.
“He’s going to go one of two ways. It’s either going to break him and he’s not going to be able to come back from it or it’s going to motivate him,” Smith said. “I’ve been broken before. It’s only happened once and it will never happen again.
“I’ve been broken to the point where I actually quit. I mentally said ‘I can’t f**king do this anymore.’ It’s when I fought Josh Neer the first time. When I fought Josh Neer the first time, he broke me and that will never happen again. Cause it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Smith truly believes over time Rohskopf will figure out what went wrong that night against Hubbard and he’ll find a way to bounce back if fighting is the career that he’s meant to pursue.
It’s just not going to happen overnight.
“So Max is going to go the direction I went and make sure to get that mental callous that [David] Goggins talks about all the time,” Smith explained. “Cause Goggins was the same way. He wasn’t born that way. Goggins wasn’t born a savage. He had to mentally put himself in those positions and callous his own brain and that’s what I did. I pushed through it. Once I was broken, I knew what it felt like and I knew I never wanted to feel that way again. Whatever direction he goes, that’s going to be on him. But I do think it’s probably best if he goes off in the regional scene and figure out who he is as a person and figure out what kind of fighter he is and then see what he wants to do.
“Because when I talked to him, I didn’t feel like I was talking to a kid who was a quitter. I really didn’t. I know that sounds crazy because he did quit but it doesn’t sound like he’s a quitter. It sounds like he’s a young, inexperienced kid who had just run into some sh*t he’d never seen before and panicked. At 4-0, I don’t know how I would have reacted in the UFC. I just don’t know. I think it was just too soon. Now that he has that experience, I think it can only help him from here if he wants it to.”