Closing the gap: Josh Koscheck UFC 103 interview exclusive with MMAmania

kos_interview

The UFC’s welterweight division has been, arguably, the most stacked division in mixed martial arts since the Pharaoh first taught Moses to roll. No other division under any MMA promotion has consistently been home to so many top 10 fighters in the modern era of the sport.

One of the fighters who has been in the thick of things in that division since the emergence of "The Ultimate Fighter" series nearly four-and-a-half years ago is Josh Koscheck.

Having fought 14 of his 16 career professional fights inside the Octagon, "Kos" has learned to adapt and evolve inside the MMA big leagues, transitioning from a four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and champion to a well-versed, well-rounded fighter with knockout power.

During his career, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product has faced some of the very best, including reigning welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and former number one contender, Thiago Alves. Koscheck also holds wins over current number one lightweight contender, Diego Sanchez, as well as Chris Lytle, Dustin Hazelett and Yoshiyuki Yoshida — the latter of which earned him the "Knockout of the Night" bonus at UFC: "Fight for the Troops" last December.

Most recently, Koscheck was on the wrong end of an uppercut from Brazilian product Paulo Thiago at UFC 95: "Sanchez vs. Stevenson" — a fight "Kos" was dominating on the feet up until that point. He now looks to bounce back from that loss this Saturday (Sept. 19) at UFC 103: "Franklin vs. Belfort" when he welcomes back to the UFC longtime veteran, Frank Trigg.

An accomplished wrestler in his own right, Trigg (19-6), now 37 years old, has stated his interest in making one last "title run" before Father Time forces him to hang up his gloves once and for all. He’s riding a four-fight win streak and sees the fight against Koscheck as one against his "mirror image."

We caught up with Koscheck to see how he feels going in against the southpaw Trigg, ask him what it felt like to earn one of the best knockouts in recent memory, find out if he thinks Matt Hughes is dodging him, and see how his recent loss to Paulo Thiago has affected him.

Let’s get after it:

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I last interviewed you in March 2008 before the Dustin Hazelett fight in Columbus, Ohio.

Josh Koscheck: I remember.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Oh, right on. You’ve gone 3-2 since that time, including a highlight reel knockout of Yoshiyuki Yoshida, one of the best knockouts I think that we’ve seen in the Octagon. First, let’s start with that fight. Tell us what it was like to land those shots and put such a dangerous opponent in Yoshida straight down, just out of his wits.

Josh Koscheck: Honestly, I like fighting southpaws. A lot of people don’t like fighting them, I like to fight southpaws. I think it’s better for my style. Yeah, if you can knock somebody out like that, that’s the ultimate. It puts you on cloud nine. It’s just a matter of being patient and capitalizing on that opportunity.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): The win over Yoshida allowed you to bounce back from the Thiago Alves fight. For that fight you stepped in on short notice — I think you had two weeks’ notice — and drew Alves’ number when he was riding this huge wave of momentum. That was a dangerous gamble to take, to take the fight on short notice. Looking back on it now, do you think that fight would have ended differently, had you had more time to prepare?

Josh Koscheck: It possibly could have. I don’t really look too much into that, you know? I’m a fighter, I step up and I fight, whether it’s one week or three months, or whatever. I just focus on what I gotta do to try to win. It just shows that I’m willing to fight anybody, I don’t care where they’re ranked, or what their record is, or how many fights they’ve won or how many they’ve lost. I’ll just fight anybody, I don’t care.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Is Alves an opponent you’d like to rematch one day down the road?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, definitely.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): At some point around the Yoshida fight, you had mentioned that you wanted to fight as frequently as possible. I think that you had said if you could fight five or six times in the next year you would. You then signed to fight Paulo Thiago — your third fight in four months’ time — and then signed to fight Chris Wilson a few months from that date but a foot injury forced you off the card. Can you talk a bit about how often you’d like to fight, assuming you remain injury free?

Josh Koscheck: Well my plan is to fight one or two more times — hopefully I can get one more in this year after Frank Trigg. I’d try to fight every other month if they’d let me. The only way I’m going to get better is by getting in the cage and fighting. You can train all you want, there’s nothing like the competition. The competition is where you improve, getting in the cage and fighting.

So for me, if I’m healthy, why not fight? I’ll fight every month if they’ll let me. I’ll fight 12 times a year if I can be healthy and the UFC will allow it. That’d be awesome.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Let’s talk about the Paulo Thiago fight. You seemed to be dominating the standup up until he caught you with the uppercut. I don’t know if you’ve watched the replay, but Joe Rogan was just praising your standup skills the entire time, and then seemingly out of nowhere, the uppercut came. What led to the end, did you recognize that you were dominating him and just got a little too reckless, or was it something else?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah possibly. Welcome to mixed martial arts, you know. It happens all the time where you’ll see a guy that’s kicking the crap out of somebody else and (then) either a submission or he gets knocked out or gets a cut, so … welcome to MMA.

That’s part of the sport … that happens. I probably got a little lazy. A little like, "Okay, when am I going to knock this guy out?" So maybe I had that attitude, I don’t really know. It’s been so long ago since that fight for me. I can just say it’s welcome to mixed martial arts. It happens.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): When the fight ended, you told the ref that the stoppage was a little too early. Do you still feel that the fight was stopped a little too early?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, I would have rather seen me go 100 percent out to where I was getting my ass kicked, and then the ref stopped it. It was a hit, I fell down, I thought that I still had my wits. It wasn’t like I was 100 percent out. Yeah, I was a little woozy, but I thought the ref stopped a little early.

But hey, you know what, that’s part of the sport. I’m not making excuses for it, not at all. Don’t think that I’m making excuses, ‘cause I’m not. That’s part of it, and I’ll deal with it. I was talking in an interview earlier, (and said) listen, you know, this is part of the game.

I’ve had hundreds and hundreds and thousands of wrestling matches. You think I won every one of them? Nope. Not at all. So what happens when you lose, Kos? Well guess what? You go back to the freakin’ gym, you go back to training, and you go back to what you do best. And that’s get back in the gym and grind and work on it.

I’ve been embarrassed before in wrestling matches, where I was like, "Shit, I just got my ass kicked." You know what? Guess what, go back, try to close that gap. Try to improve and close that gap so you don’t get your ass kicked again. So that’s my theory. It happens in mixed martial arts. It’s a crazy ass game. You win some and you lose some. The key is to try to win more than you lose in this game, that’s for sure.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Are you in favor of the recent move [http://mmamania.com/2009/08/20/nsac-approves-mma-instant-replay-anti-greasing-bj-penn-rule/] to introduce instant replay into situations like that with questionable stoppages?

Josh Koscheck: I don’t know if that would be … to be honest with you, I don’t pay attention to the Internet. I haven’t watched TV in probably over two months. So I don’t know what’s going on in the mixed martial arts world, other than I have a fight … what’s the date on that?

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I think it’s the 19th?

Josh Koscheck: September? Is this month September? See I don’t even know. Yeah, September 19, alright.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs)

Josh Koscheck: So I honestly don’t know what’s going on with anything, and I honestly don’t care. It is what it is. I’m going to show up, I’m going to fight my ass off and try to put on a good show.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well let’s talk about your opponent, Frank Trigg. When I’ve talked to you in the past, you’ve said that you really don’t watch a lot of tape. That said, Trigg’s been around for awhile, I’m sure you’ve seen some of his fights. What do you expect to see from Frank Trigg? Do you expect this to be sort of a sprawl-and-brawl type fight, or is this going to be more of a classic wrestling match?

Josh Koscheck: You know, I have no clue to be honest with you. I know that I have a game plan, and I’m going to be very, very disciplined, and I’m going to try to stick to my game plan. And I think that this game plan is well-suited for a type of opponent like Frank Trigg. I’m going to be very disciplined early in the fight to stick to my game plan.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How have you been preparing for him? Have you changed up anything drastically from your typical training camp?

Josh Koscheck: Nope, everything is pretty much the same. A couple of months ago, I hired a strength coach when I was injured. I got to do a lot of things I haven’t done in a while with strength and conditioning. But other than that, everything else is the same. I train at AKA with the rest of the crew. I have a lot of good southpaws there that I train with on a regular basis. I put in a hard, 15-week training camp. I’m excited, I’m in great shape, I don’t think I’ve been in this good of shape in a long time. And I’m excited about the opportunity.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What exactly was the injury? Was it a foot injury that you had that forced you out of the Chris Wilson fight?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, I had a foot injury. It’s good, you know, ‘cause it let me focus on some areas that I haven’t really got to focus on with my training, I neglected some things, I got to go back to basics and just work on a lot of stuff. I worked on a lot of wrestling, I have my strength and conditioning, and I worked on my boxing, my Muay Thai, and my jiu-jitsu. It was good.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Trigg seems to be a pretty outspoken person. I guess some would criticize him as being a little cocky. Have you two interacted in any way before? Is there like a mutual respect there or do you just not know him at all?

Josh Koscheck: I’ve met Frank a couple times, but I don’t really know him on a personal level. So it is what it is. It’s a fight. So I’m going to try to show up and be in the best shape, and try to put the beat down on him in the first round.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): When I first heard about you scheduled to fight Trigg, the first thing I thought was, "Why didn’t the UFC offer Kos the Matt Hughes fight?" given that Trigg and Hughes are somewhat similar in terms of their styles, and you’ve been vocal about wanting that fight in the past. Do you know why they haven’t offered you that fight?

Josh Koscheck: No, I don’t. I’ve been asking for that for a long time. Rumor has it that (Hughes) doesn’t want to fight myself or Jon Fitch. He doesn’t want to be a stepping stone, I guess. But if he wants to get back to title contention, he’s going to have to go through one of us. So I don’t get it, I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to fight one of us. You know, that’s his decision. That’s on him. But the AKA guys are willing to fight anybody anytime anyplace, I can guarantee you that.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): In terms of being a good fighter and the most important attributes for a fighter, would you put more stock in mental toughness and confidence than you would in physical toughness and preparedness? Are they equally important?

Josh Koscheck: I think, obviously yes, you have to be prepared. But I think one of the most important things is you gotta have that fight in ya'. You gotta have that willingness to go in there and just, no matter what, no matter tired, no matter sick, no matter staph infection, no matter what you have, go into that fucking fight and fight your ass off. That’s mental toughness, and that’s heart.

A lot of fighters lack a little bit of heart, a lot of fighters have heart. Some have more heart than skill, and some have more skill than heart. But I think one of the most important things that you have is when the tough gets tough, and things are not going your way, can you battle through it and fight back and overcome that adversity and still win? That’s a big part of this game is having a lot of heart.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Josh, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I wanted to give you a chance to thank any sponsors or if you have any parting words for your fans.

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, definitely. All the Fresno people, come out and check out my gym, AKA Fresno. I know Mania was supposed to do an interview on it, and he dogged me on that. Anyway, AKA Fresno, Dethrone, all my sponsors at my gym, Mar Clothing, KosMMA.com and Carnal DaMMAge — it’s our fight shop that’s in our gym, a badass fight shop, a 1,500-square-foot fight shop. We got one of the nicest gyms in the country, so if you guys are in the area, stop by and check it out.

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