"I’m just coming to prove that I’ve still got what it takes to be up in the number one contender’s spot." - Josh Koscheck
When you’ve been in the UFC for as long as Josh Koscheck has, you can’t remain stagnant. And at 35, fighting isn’t about getting in shape and throwing down like a 25-year-old. Instead, it becomes even more of a chess match, as you figure out when to strike and when to sit back and wait for your opportunities.
In other words, to keep moving forward, you have to keep learning.
“As a fighter, as a businessman, as a person in general, it’s always good to learn lessons as you go on in life and I feel like I’m at that point where I’m at a new stage and a new career, and I’m learning so much more about myself, about my training, and I feel like I’m in a great place.”
On paper, 2012 wasn’t the ideal year for the perennial welterweight contender. He won a razor-thin split decision over Mike Pierce to start the year, followed it with a split decision loss to Johny Hendricks that was just as close, and then finished up with a back injury. In between, he split with his longtime team at the American Kickboxing Academy to do his own thing at his gym in Fresno, California. And though he admits that he would have liked to fight more, he’s not complaining about the trials and tribulations of last year, feeling that in the long run, everything worked out.
“Now I feel like I’ve got it dialed in where I’m pretty healthy and trying to make sure that I can stay at the same level of training and cardio, but train smarter,” said Koscheck, who returns to the Octagon this Saturday to face Robbie Lawler. “I got a really good camp, great coaches, and Bob Cook comes down every Tuesday and Thursday and trains with me.”
And when he wasn’t rehabbing his back injury or training, you could likely find Koscheck in the air above Northern California as he piloted his way around the area. For those of us on the ground, that would be a harrowing prospect, but for Koscheck, it’s just another way to pick up some lessons that he can also apply to his day job.
“When you’re up there flying, you want to be as prepared as possible for anything,” he said. “I flew to Oceana to the beach a couple weeks ago, and I was flying over some mountains and thinking and I’m always prepping my next step. What if something happens, where am I gonna land this thing? And I’m always scanning and always thinking of what the worst possibility of something happening up there is. It’s the same thing as fighting, and I can relate the two. I’m thinking, I’m fighting Robbie Lawler; what happens if he cranks me with something big? What am I gonna do, what do I have to adjust? It’s the same thing as flying, and I’m always learning something.”
So what was his first landing like?
“The landing’s the good part because that means you’re gonna be close to the ground,” he laughs. “The hardest thing about flying is when you’re up there and you’re learning to do stalls. You have to really crank the engine up, especially ‘power on’ stalls. You just crank the plane straight up to the sky, 90 degrees up until the plane stalls and there’s no air going over the wings. That’s probably the scariest aspect of flying, putting the plane into a stall.”
And if you’re wondering why you would want to do that, Koscheck points out that it’s part of the training process. But if you’re thinking that he’s a reckless adrenaline junkie, he makes it clear that it’s certainly not the case with him, especially in the air.
“I’m conservative when it comes to flying and I stick to the rules,” he said. “I only fly in good weather and I’m very conservative because I know the risks. And most of the time I have my girlfriend with me and I don’t want to jeopardize her life as well.”
Again, he compares it to fighting.
“There are big risks in fighting. Sometimes you have to be conservative when it comes to fighting, and sometimes you have to go out there and lay it on the line.”
Saturday’s bout is most definitely a risky one. Looking to keep his title hopes alive, Koscheck is taking on the returning Lawler, who is returning to the welterweight division for the first time since 2004. Koscheck, who has never been shy about engaging in a little pre-fight trash talk, is respectful of “Ruthless Robbie” though.
“I’ve always watched Robbie Lawler fight,” he said. “He’s been around for a long time. I saw a couple of his fights in Strikeforce and I remember after one of his fights we were in the same locker room because Herschel Walker and (Daniel) Cormier and all those guys were there and fighting, and he actually came up to me and wanted to say ‘hey, I need to come and get some wrestling and I need to come and train with you.’ And I invited him to come and train with me. So I’ve always liked Robbie Lawler, he’s a standup guy, and I think he’s represented our sport pretty well over the years. And as highly as I think of Robbie Lawler, I still gotta come out and I gotta put it on him and show him that Josh Koscheck is a better fighter, a more well-rounded fighter, and just prove it.”
Koscheck is without question the better wrestler, and when he’s gone up against knockout artists like Anthony Johnson and Paul Daley, he’s had plenty of success with his ground game. But as he’s quick to note, he’s got some dynamite in his four ounce gloves as well.
“It’s the same game plan across the board (regardless of opponent), but what these guys have to understand too is that I can one punch knockout as well,” he said. “I’m a well-rounded fighter at this point of my career, and I’m just coming to prove that I’ve still got what it takes to be up in the number one contender’s spot. I’ve got a lot of work to still do in this sport, and I’m just trying to fight my fights, have a good time, and make some money.”
And with six of the top welterweights in the world (Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Hendricks, Nate Marquardt, and Jake Ellenberger) doing battle in Montreal next month, there’s no better time than this Saturday for him to make a statement to them and the world that he’s coming for them.
“I definitely gotta make a statement, and the only way to do that is to come out and get a big win.”