With back-to-back wins, Josh Koscheck is blazing a path back to the top of the 170-pound division since a disappointing unanimous decision loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 74: "Respect" last year.
In fact, it's that loss that has motivated him to become a better fighter, pushing him to train harder and fight smarter.
So far so good -- he has topped both Dustin Hazelett and Chris Lytle in different albeit equally impressive fashion. However, he won't be satisfied until he gets the one thing that has alluded the NCAA collegiate wrestling champion:
A UFC title.
Koscheck is not used to losing. So he doesn't care where, when or at what weight class it happens. He just wants it to happen ... soon. And he seems hellbent on achieving that ultimate goal, regardless of the toll it takes on him.
We recently caught up with Josh after his unanimous decision win over Lytle at UFC 86: "Jackson vs. Griffin" earlier this month, discussing everything from who he wants to fight next to what he is sharing with his training partner, Jon Fitch, as he helps him prepare for the man who he can't wait to get his hands on one more time -- St. Pierre.
In fact, he says he'll fight St. Pierre five times (and win) if that's what it takes to one day wear UFC gold. He also says he'll sacrifice and shed 15 pounds to compete against BJ Penn at 155 pounds if it means he gets his title shot.
Whatever it takes.
Here's our discussion:
MMAmania.com: So let's start off by saying congrats on the big win over Chris Lytle. That turned out to be quite a blood-soaked battle. I wouldn't be surprised if you're still finding his blood on you.
Josh Koscheck: [Laughs]. Thanks, man. I had to take like three showers and even then it was still everywhere. It turned my hair pink.
MMAmania.com: That was a tough fight because a lot of people sleep on Lytle -- he's very dangerous and very resilient. In fact, he's never really been stopped other than a few cuts.
Josh Koscheck: Yeah, that's what I was worried about when I was approached about the fight. He's never really been stopped. I was a little more worried about this fight going in than some of the others actually because he's good on the feet, great with submissions -- has some tricky stuff. But we put together a great gameplan thanks to Javier Mendez and the other coaches at American Kickboxing Academy. Javier was pounding it in my head for three months leading up to the fight. In fact, he printed out Chris Lytle's boxing record and made me stick it in the visor of my car so I would see it everyday and have that constant reminder that I was not going to trade punches all night with this guy. I just followed it to a tee and got the victory.
MMAmania.com: Are you surprised that the fight wasn't stopped because of all the blood?
Josh Koscheck: I thought it should have been stopped. There was a lot of damage. At one point I knew he couldn't see because his eyes were closed with the blood rushing into them. But then again if it were me I wouldn't want the referee to stop the fight so hats off to Chris for hanging in there. I know I always tell the referees before my fights not to step in. If I'm in trouble I'll tap.
MMAmania.com: So you actually approach the referees before your fights and tell them not to stop your fights?
Josh Koscheck: Yes, I always tell them to let me fight as long as I can. If I get hurt or am in a bad position I know that I am a trained professional that has the skills to protect myself and battle back and get out of trouble. Maybe Lytle said the same thing to the official ... I have no idea.
MMAmania.com: Well, Yves Lavigne reffed that bout, who I consider one of the best in the business in terms of letting fighters battle back.
Josh Koscheck: He does a great job. He's a good referee. All officials should be there to just monitor the situations and not have a hand in the outcome of the fights. So in that respect he does a good job.
MMAmania.com: During this pre-fight ritual that you just mentioned, do you ever think to yourself, "Damn, why does this guy have to ref my fight?" Is there one guy out there who you don't want in there with you?
Josh Koscheck: As of right now I think everyone who officiates for the UFC has done a great job. It's not easy at all. My fear is just that one of my fights gets stopped too soon. That's why I always tell them, "Hey, if I get whacked so hard and I'm seeing stars don't stop my fight. I don't care if I'm on queer street just let me continue." I'll find a way out of trouble and I reinforce that every time I compete.
MMAmania.com: Is this something you just started doing recently because of situations like Brandon Vera or is this something you have always done?
Josh Koscheck: I've always done it. Even "Big" John McCarthy used to joke that he knew I was never going to tap after the loss to Drew Fickett. I guess I thought I could make it to the bell even though I didn't. But I wouldn't have known that unless I got choked out so I'm glad the ref didn't step in. If I'm in an armbar I'd rather it break while I'm trying to escape or I'd rather go to sleep trying to get out of a choke. That's to me a much better way of going out than a referee coming in and stopping it prematurely.
MMAmania.com: Ok, let's move on. Before the fight you caused a little bit of a stir, saying you'd be willing to go down and fight BJ Penn if it was for a title. What was that all about?
Josh Koscheck: Let's just get one thing clear: It's not because I don't think I can beat Georges St. Pierre or because my training partner Jon Fitch might win the belt. People have been saying those things ever since that article appeared. It's not true. I will beat Georges St. Pierre -- mark my words ... it's just a matter of time. The truth of the matter is that I want to become a world champion. It doesn't matter if it's at 170, 185 or even 155. If the opportunity is there and BJ Penn needs someone to fight at 155 I'll be that guy. I don't care. I want to be a world champion. That's my goal and that's the reason I fight. Right now my goal is still to become the 170 pound champion. But if an opportunity arises I would take it, especially if the money was right.
MMAmania.com: You look like a raisin already when you tip the scales at 170. It looks like you've been sucked dry. Can you even make 155?
Josh Koscheck: In wrestling I actually made 153 pounds. And when I was walking around then I was only about 174 pounds. I didn't cut that much weight in college. I was big and strong and walked around super lean at 174 all the time.
MMAmania.com: What do you walk around at right now?
Josh Koscheck: I'm close to 190 pounds right now.
MMAmania.com: That's a big cut.
Josh Koscheck: Yeah, it is. I'd have to change my whole lifestyle. I'd have to change my eating habits, I'd have to run seven days a week and do whatever it takes. It's just a matter of dedication and I believe I could make 155. There's no question about it. Again, I just want to win a title ... I don't care what I have to do or who I have to fight.
MMAmania.com: Does that include your buddy, Jon Fitch, if he beats St. Pierre on August 9?
Josh Koscheck: If Fitch wins the title then that is a great problem to have. We would probably do it if he had the title and I was next in line. We'd have a great opportunity to make some good money together and that what friends do -- help each other out.
MMAmania.com: Let's stick with the whole weight class issue for a minute here because you're not the only one willing to move around. BJ has made it known that he intends to fight the winner of the fight between St. Pierre and Fitch later this year perhaps as soon as New Year's Eve. Does that piss you off?
Josh Koscheck: Yeah that pisses me off. The last two times he fought at welterweight he lost. He's 0-2 at 170 since he came back ...
MMAmania.com: This would also be his third crack at the welterweight title.
Josh Koscheck: Listen, I like BJ Penn a lot. He's actually one of my good friends. He is the UFC 155-pound champion and one of the most exciting fighters in the world. The UFC probably sees this as a great opportunity to put on another great pay-per-view for the fans. It is what it is. And at the end of the day if BJ does come back up to our division then it's good for the sport and good for the rest of the guys at 170 who want to fight the best. He gets a lot of respect from me -- he's a phenomenal person and even better athlete -- even though I might not agree with the decision for my own personal reasons. So if the UFC wants to do that then that's their business. I'm just here to make money and one day become a world champion. My time will come no matter what happens.
MMAmania.com: So what's more important to you: Fighting the best, being a champion or making money?
Josh Koscheck: They all go hand-in-hand. You don't really get one without the other. If you're the champion you're constantly fighting the best and making good money. All three of them are important to me. But at the end of the day I want to fight the best guys in the world. You can't have one without the other.
MMAmania.com: Even with the loss to St. Pierre you are still considered a top contender, especially after rebounding with big wins over Dustin Hazelett and Lytle. After several years with the organization, how does it finally feel to be paid like a top contender?
Josh Koscheck: [Long pause and then laughs]. We're not going to answer that question.
MMAmania.com: It's a matter of public record. You got $10,000 for your loss to St. Pierre and then $70,000 for your win over Lytle. That's a massive -- and well deserved -- bump.
Josh Koscheck: What do you mean, man, I was rich when I lost to St. Pierre!
MMAmania.com: Not according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Josh Koscheck: Listen, I have a good contract now. The UFC has treated and continues to treat me well. If I keep winning I'll keep making more and more money. When I'm done fighting I want to have enough money socked away where I can do what I want without having to worry about anything. It's important that I provide for me and for my family.
MMAmania.com: So that [Lytle] was your second fight on the new deal?
Josh Koscheck: No, it was my first.
MMAmania.com: How many more are left then before your next raise?
Josh Koscheck: Three more fights.
MMAmania.com: Did you buy yourself any new toys with the big paycheck?
Josh Koscheck: No, no new toys. Just saving it all for a rainy day. Putting it in the bank.
MMAmania.com: For what ... a wedding ring?
Josh Koscheck: [Laughs] What?
MMAmania.com: Well we passed along news recently that your good friend Chuck Liddell just popped the question. And these things usually happen in twos or three so I figured I'd ask.
Josh Koscheck: Not right now. I've got too much going on. I want to become a world champion. And right now that's my focus.
MMAmania.com: What kind of toll does your career have on a relationship?
Josh Koscheck: I think that all depends on who you have. I'm fortunate enough to have a girl who supports me and supports what I do. She's just getting her career started like me, so we're both focusing on our careers right now. It's all good. I have someone who I can relate to about what it takes to be number one so for me it's a good thing. I've got a great support system around me -- my family, her family, my management team, my training partners and coaches at AKA. It's a good situation for me right now.
MMAmania.com: Is she a fight fan ... can she watch you fight?
Josh Koscheck: Oh yeah, totally, she loves it. Like I said, she's a big supporter along with everyone else I just mentioned. And if I didn't have that support it'd be a much harder road to the top.
MMAmania.com: Do you know who you are fighting next or when?
Josh Koscheck: No clue. And that's fine for now. My goal is to get Fitch ready for St. Pierre. That'll keep me fresh and ready for when the UFC comes calling.
MMAmania.com: There are a lot of guys tied up right now with other fights: Karo Parisyan, Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez and some of the other top fighters in the division are either booked or injured. So if Joe Silva calls you up and asks you to give him a name what would you say?
Josh Koscheck: That's unrealistic because Joe Silva has never called me.
MMAmania.com: OK then, Bob Cook calls you and tells you to pick.
Josh Koscheck: I don't know. I just want to fight someone who makes sense and gets me closer to a title shot.
MMAmania.com: Is that possibly St. Pierre if Fitch wins ... all things considered?
Josh Koscheck: You mean when Fitch beats St. Pierre, which I think he will? Yeah, why not. I'm dying to do a rematch with Georges. I don't care if I have to fight him five times as long as it helps me get closer to that belt. It doesn't matter to me because I know now that I can beat Georges. I don't think I was totally ready for our first fight and I think it will go totally different the next time.
MMAmania.com: What have you taken from that experience and that loss and given to Fitch in training to help him prepare for St. Pierre?
Josh Koscheck: There's actually a couple of things. Jon has the ability to scramble real well. He's also a lot better than me of getting back to his feet when he's put on his back. When I'm training with Fitch I have a very hard time holding him down. Those two things will help him tremendously in this fight. He'll be able to get up to his feet and create scrambles if Georges takes him down.
MMAmania.com: I've met Fitch and Georges both and Fitch just seems a lot bigger. You've had your hands on both. Is there a size difference there that could be a factor?
Josh Koscheck: Fitch is a much taller fighter. He might even be a little stronger. He's a grinder. That's totally different than Georges who is an explosive athlete. It's a total contrast in styles. I'll use a wrestling analogy: Oklahoma State guys are always known to be super athletic. And then you have the Iowa guys who just grind you out and are relentless. So if the Oklahoma State guy doesn't strike early then the Iowa wrestler usually breaks him in the later rounds. That's how I see this fight going down. Georges is Oklahoma State and Fitch is Iowa. Georges may win the first two rounds, but I know for a fact that if this goes the distance Jon will likely be the better fighter in the later rounds.
MMAmania.com: I've actually been saying something similar ever since this fight was announced. If it's a three-round fight I'd give the advantage to St. Pierre. But the five rounds seems to favor Fitch. He seems like a slow starter who gets going as the fight wears on.
Josh Koscheck: Realistically, Fitch isn't a slow starter. He just fights at the same pace from bell to bell. He paces himself real well. So when fights hit the third round he might look a little better but he's actually the same as he was in the first round. His opponents are the ones who usually tire and fade later in the fights, which makes Jon look sharp because he's still fighting at the same tempo. That's a huge advantage for him in any fight, especially a five rounder.
MMAmania.com: So then what's your prediction for the fight between St. Pierre and Fitch?
Josh Koscheck: Fitch. He has all the tools. Georges now just seems like a wrestler who wants to takedown his opponents and beat them up on the ground. Fitch is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he's a great scrambler and he can get to his feet fast. He can also avoid submissions and take this fight into the later rounds. It's definitely going to be a good fight.
MMAmania.com: So ... Fitch by decision?
Josh Koscheck: I don't know. Anything can happen. It's just to hard to predict in this sport. I just think that Fitch will somehow win the fight.
MMAmania.com: Fair enough. It's also fair to say that you have evolved remarkably as a fighter since your stint on the Ultimate Fighter. I know we've talked about that quite a bit throughout our various conversations. One thing I never asked, however, is whether or not you have any regrets.
Josh Koscheck: Regrets?
MMAmania.com: Yeah, like running the garden hose on Chris Leben when he was sleeping outside.
Josh Koscheck: [Laughs]. I see. I think most of us were young an immature on that show. We also had no idea at the time that it would explode like it did. We've all grown up since then for the most part. I can guarantee if we all went back on that show it would be totally different. We'd all have different opinions, personalities and other good stuff.
MMAmania.com: You might actually be on to something. The Ultimate Fighter: "The Reunion." Any interest?
Josh Koscheck: [Laughs] Not really. Maybe of the money was right but probably not.
MMAmania.com: At least now you get to break stuff without it costing you anything.
Josh Koscheck: Yeah, right? These guys trash the houses every season. We had to pay for all the damages we caused out of our own pockets when our season was over. They should reimburse me that money!
MMAmania.com: How much did you have to cough up?
Josh Koscheck: I think it was like $2,000 or something like that, which was a lot of money at that time.
MMAmania.com: What was that for?
Josh Koscheck: It was after the whole Leben situation -- he broke the window and the door. And me, him and Bobby [Southworth] had to split the bill for the repairs.
MMAmania.com: Damn. Ok man. That was a little off track. Anyway, we've taken a lot of your time tonight. We really appreciate it. Thanks as always. We wish you the best going forward. Any last words for our readers out there?
Josh Koscheck: Yeah, thanks to everyone who supports me. Thanks to MMAmania.com -- you guys are great. Tell everyone to head over to MAR Clothing and buy some gear. We've got some really cool stuff over there.