Saturday night is the latest “biggest night” of Josh Koscheck’s life. So if he seems low-key, or quiet before his challenge for Georges St-Pierre’s welterweight title, it’s because he’s been here before, whether it was competing for a National Championship in wrestling, participating in big fight after big fight in the UFC, or just in his mind, where he’s probably replayed the scenarios that will present themselves this weekend over and over again.
It’s just another night.
“I just look at it as if it’s just another fight,” he said. “I haven’t really looked at it too deeply as if this is a monster fight. I’m being conservative and I’m coming into this fight well-prepared. That’s pretty much where I’m at with my mindset right now.”
Of course, deep in his heart, Koscheck knows that the UFC 124 main event is not just another fight. A win over St-Pierre will not only net him the 170-pound title, it will change his life forever. When the history of the UFC is written, Koscheck will have his place in the Hall of Champions, something that could never be taken away. He’s also talked about fighting for the money in the past, and having a UFC title belt will significantly impact his bank account in a positive manner. So this is far from just a routine trip north of the border, and he’s smart enough to realize that. But he won’t blink, won’t give a look past the wall he’s built up over the course of an intense training camp. Not now, it’s not time. So when he’s asked if he pictured placing the belt around his waist, his resolve remains strong.
“I haven’t thought about it yet, and I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’ve got a fight to worry about, and I don’t think about the belt. I don’t think about anything but fighting. It’s just another fight for me, and it so happens that I get to go into Montreal, Georges’ hometown, and fight him, and that’s all I’m concerned about right now.”
That’s what has brought Josh Koscheck to this moment. He’s the straightest of straight shooters, whether you like what he has to say or not, and he will not play the game just for the sake of playing it. When he does anything, it’s with one goal in mind – to win. And winning has been a habit of his since he was a child. He’s got the accolades to prove it – A 2001 NCAA Division I National Championship for Edinboro University, four-time recognition as an All-American, and 17 mixed martial arts wins against just four defeats, with much of that time spent growing up in public in the UFC. You don’t reach this point without being tough, without having a measure of resolve that allows you to step into an Octagon and be resigned to the fact that another man will punch you for the next 15 or 25 minutes. Every fighter in this sport has that. Koscheck believes he has a little more, and he definitely believes he has more than the champion he faces Saturday night.
“I think that is the case on Georges,” he said when asked whether his 2007 appraisal of St-Pierre being mentally weak still applied today. “But the question is, has anybody put him to that test or put him to that point? A couple guys have (Matt Hughes and Matt Serra), and you saw the results. They put him in a position that he wasn’t comfortable with. And that’s the same position that I’ve got to take on this – I’ve got to put him in a position where he’s uncomfortable and make him quit. Every man has a breaking point and I gotta put him in that position to where he’s questioning himself and questioning that he can win this fight.”
Years of wrestling will build you into a mentally tough, hard to break fighter, and that’s what Koscheck expects will take him through his first five round bout. In fact, he expects nothing less than to break GSP and to take his belt. And if that breaking point comes, he’ll know it.
“You can feel it and sense it,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you crack somebody and there’s no greater feeling than knowing that you just cracked this guy, you beat him, and you broke him down mentally. That’s a great feeling.”
Talking about it provides one of the rare breaks in Koscheck’s serious demeanor, one free of wisecracks, trash talk, or any other forms of levity. This is a mean business, and Koscheck is getting mean. But any suspicions of him being overtrained or leaving his fight in the gym are unfounded, as he’s put in his work while still taking the time to recharge his batteries.
“Sometimes a day off from training and resting your mind is almost as good as a day in the gym working out and riding yourself,” he said. “Those things are important for you, and I enjoy being away from the gym because when I go back it makes me hungry and makes me work harder.”
‘Hard work’ was Koscheck’s mantra throughout his stint as a coach on the recently completed season of The Ultimate Fighter. And though he didn’t place any of his fighters in the finals, he did take away enough good things to make the experience a positive one.
“I took a lot from the show,” he said. “One of the things I took from Nam Phan is that the kid runs like crazy. He runs all the time, he’s putting five to ten miles a day in, and one of the things that I took back into my training is that I needed to run more. This camp, one week I did 28 miles, so I’ve been trying to put my time in. I know that you don’t really get too many opportunities at a second chance in life, and I just need that second opportunity that I get against Georges St-Pierre on December 11th. So I’m real excited about that, and one of the things that I tried to preach to those kids is hard work, and it does pay off.”
Koscheck’s 12 weeks on television did little to endear him to fans who already had it out for him though, and as a business man as well as fighter, that was just fine with him, as evidenced by his appearance at the Honda Center in Anaheim when his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez won the UFC heavyweight title from Brock Lesnar in October.
“I think Osama Bin Laden could have walked in there and got as many boos and yells as I did,” Koscheck laughs. “It shows the power of television, and I think a lot of people judge the book before they read it. But it is what it is; I’m here for business, and like I’ve always said, I’ve got close people around me who love me and care about me, and when everybody gets to meet me, it’s a different story than what they see on reality TV. Plus, it’s about making money, so if they want to hate me, I’ll just continue to let them hate me, and I’ll keep collecting those dollars.”
He says that, but you know that it’s not all about money for Koscheck. What it is all about is winning, and until Saturday night turns into Sunday morning, he won’t have the opportunity to say that he’s beaten Georges St-Pierre. Right now, that’s the punchline GSP will always have over his challenger, that he defeated him back in August of 2007. Since that bout, St-Pierre has been unstoppable. Koscheck, the last man to take as much as a round from the pride of Montreal, has a theory about that phenomenon.
“I just think that Georges has turned into a wrestler where he just wants to take guys down and lay on them and try to eek out decisions,” he said. “Maybe they respected him too much, thinking that he’s the best, on the pound-for-pound list and all those types of things. He’s been champion for a while, he’s Georges St-Pierre, he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s got good wrestling.”
Then he repeats his initial thought.
“Maybe they respected him too much, thinking that he’s better than what he is.”
Josh Koscheck may respect Georges St-Pierre, but he’s not going to tell you that. And this weekend, for 25 minutes or less, he’s not going to let St-Pierre know it either. Be strong. Be tough. No respect. And maybe when it’s over, a new champion will let you know just how he feels putting that belt around his waist.
Free Prelims on UFC.com/Live
For the first time ever, two preliminary bouts will be aired live and free online at http://www.ufc.com/live.
The Dustin Hazelett vs Mark Bocek and Dan Miller vs Joe Doerksen fights
will be available to everyone worldwide at no charge starting at 9pm
ET/ 6pm PT/ 2am GMT.
Just Another Fight for Josh Koscheck?
"I’ve got to put him in a position where he’s uncomfortable and make him quit. Every man has a breaking point and I gotta put him in that position to where he’s questioning himself and questioning that he can win this fight."