For those that follow the sport of MMA, Josh Koscheck is a name synonomous with controversy. Always a source of sharp tongued sound bites Josh is known as much a straight shooter as he is a straight puncher. Most of us replay in our minds the scenes of Josh and Bobby Southworth hosing down a sleeping Chris Leben in the original Ultimate Fighter series even when we see Koscheck take to the Octagon today. What I found in speaking with Josh for the first time was a very cordial well-spoken, but intensely focused individual who aims to make the most out of the opportunity he has been given as a mixed martial artist. Josh was fresh off his Fight of the Night stunning knock out victory over Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the Fight for the Troops UFC event in December when I spoke with him.
8CN: Josh, doesn’t look like you are wasting anytime getting back into the gym after your main event with Yoshida at Fight for the Troops?
JK: Man, I probably took a week off, but I like to stay in great shape, so, yeah, I’m right back in. If I lay off long I cannot stay in the kind of shape that I like to be in. So I’m back doing some light bag and pad work.
8CN: Well you’ve certainly proven in 2008 and the last several years that you stay in good shape and ready to fight. We saw you take the fight with Thiago Alves on 2 weeks notice in October which is testament to your conditioning. Was Thiago just better than you that night or did the conditioning and short notice have that much affect on you?
JK: He was simply a better fighter that night. No way around it. I don’t make any excuses for that night. It was what it was.
8CN: Congratulations on the win against Yoshida, great knockout, Fight of the Night. It had to feel great to comeback and win in that fashion.
JK: Yeah, absolutely, it felt great. I needed that win very, very badly. I needed to prove that I’ve become a better fighter. I hope the fight and the result was a testament to me becoming a well rounded mixed martial artist.
8CN: Josh, did you expect more out of Yoshida that night or do you feel like he brought his best and it just wasn’t enough?
JK: You know I didn’t really know what to expect because I’d never seen him fight. I knew he was on a nine fight winning streak, so he was doing something right. I knew he’d never lost many times at all. So, I prepared myself for a very tough three round fight. I just wanted to come in as well rounded and ready as possible.
8CN: Was there a point in the fight, as brief as it was, that you said to yourself, I’m gonna stand here and knock this guy out or did it just happen? What was the game plan there
JK: Yeah, I wanted to keep the fight standing and throw punches with him. I felt like I was at a point with my up-game that I could go in there and knock him out. I knew he’d be tough, but I was confident in what I had worked on and knew that I could take him out.
8CN: Has the UFC given you some idea of what is next? Do you want a rematch with Alves? Will you fight early this year?
JK: That’s definitely something I’d be very interested in. I’d love to fight Thiago again. I talked with Dana White last night in a meeting and discussed my contract, which is up now with the UFC. I told him I’d like to fight five or six times in a year. That’s the kind of contract I’m looking for.
8CN: So, no doubt about it, you want to fight as much as possible.
JK: Oh yeah, I want to be training for something…an upcoming fight. I do much better that way than just being in the gym. I’m great with fighting every other month or so. I want to get in the forty or fifty fight range one day. That’s hard to do now-a-days at the top level, but I want to.
8CN: Josh, I think as much as you have to work hard to keep yourself physically ready to fight that often and with that intensity, you have to work on the mental preparation for that as well. Speak to that and talk about where you are mentally leading up to and then when you enter the cage.
JK: For me, I would say that point of the fight I carry a “kill or be killed” mentality. I feel as if all the training and sacrifice has led to this moment. I allow myself to mentally see the fight as a reward for all my hard work. It’s something I enjoy. Something I get to do, not just have to do. I swear, to me, getting to fight is almost as good as even getting the money for fighting. It’s that much of a reward to me. So, it helps me to mentally be ready for the fight in that I look at it as something I’m looking forward to.
8CN: Did it take you a while to get to the point you felt that way or do you have to work at developing that mentality?
JK: I personally think if you have to work at getting yourself pumped up for the cage then something is wrong with you and you shouldn’t be in there and you are in the wrong sport. I think about all the time I spent in the gym training my ass off and how that got me to this point. Those thoughts are all I need to be ready for the reward of getting to test myself one on one against another man who wants to beat me.
8CN: Is a wrestling background proving to be dominant aspect a mixed martial artist can bring into the fight game today?
JK: I think wrestling allows you to take the fight where you want it to go. You can keep it standing or take it to the ground. Wrestling is what allows either one of those things to happen. I think wrestling is a huge, huge aspect to this game right now, probably one of the most important aspects in MMA period.
8CN: Tell me about other professional pursuits you have going right now, including your clothing line, Mar.
JK: Well, I’m focused on fighting and Mar clothing. Mar’s been out almost two years now. We’re growing everyday. I believe we are in around one hundred plus stores now. It started with a friend and I dreaming it up. We had an artist draw up the concepts and here we are two years later. It’s been a really cool project to work on.
8CN: Josh, will you ever escape your bad boy image that all started back with how you were viewed on the Ultimate Fighter? Are you ok if you don’t?
JK: Well, obviously the more people that love you as a fighter, the more people want to see you fight and become fans. Which then means the more people who would look up your website, buy your clothing, etc. That’s how it all works. So, it’s good to be popular fighter. It would be great to be loved like a Chuck or Randy. I would hope if I keep knocking guys out like this last fight there is more potential for that type of fan base. I’m always going to voice my opinion though. I have strong thoughts on certain issues and I don’t mind saying that. If you don’t like what I have to say or what I do…change the channel or don’t read the interview. People are going to hate me, but some people will love me too. Bottom line is I gotta keep doing my job which is winning fights and putting on a good performance while I do it.
8CN: At least you’re not a mediocre middle of the road kind of guy, that’s boring. I think people admire a love/hate guy over a boring guy any day.
JK: Yeah, you’re right, I don’t want to be the guy caught in between…they don’t make any money. (laughs) I want to make money while I can. I realize I am a brand. Honestly, as much as I love to fight, I don’t want to be fighting when I’m too old to do it, just because I need the money. I don’t want to be Ken Shamrock or one of these guys who keep at it while past their ability to compete.
8CN: Any predictions on the St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn fight?
JK: Not really, you know. They are both tremendous fighters. It could really go either way. I quit making predictions in this game. I just try to stay focused on Josh Koscheck and making myself the best fighter I can.
8CN: I realize that your new contract may not be finished yet, but can you tell me if you are fighting in February as is rumored?
JK: Yeah, looks like it. I will be fighting in London. That’s not 100% for sure, but I think it will happen.
8CN: Josh, a last word for fans and readers.
JK: Thanks for your support. Love me or hate me, one or the other. (laughs)
8CN: Thanks Josh, we appreciate your time.
JK: Thank you, Matt.