Friday, March 30, 2007

Five Ounces of Pain: An interview with Josh Koscheck

By Sam Caplan

Few mixed martial artists carry the amateur credentials of UFC welterweight fighter Josh Koscheck. While at Edinboro University, Koscheck was a four-time All-American in freestyle wrestling. In 2001, Koscheck posted a 42-0 record on his way to the NCAA Division I championship in the 174-pound weight class.

After graduating, Koscheck attempted to make the United States Olympic team but fell short. He'd rebound in a big way after making a life-changing decision to convert to mixed martial arts. Soon after making his MMA debut, he was cast on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, becoming one of the show's breakout stars and garnering a contract from the UFC in the process.

While Koscheck boasts an impressive record of 8-1, he has come under scrutiny from MMA fans because of a fighting style that many consider to be boring. Relying heavily on his wrestling background, many of Koscheck's fights have been ground-based, thus lacking crowd pleasing strikes from a standing position.

But critics of Koscheck should be mindful that he's still a relative newcomer. After all, he has only been training in MMA for three years. He'll face the stiffest test of his young career when he faces former TUF cast mate Diego Sanchez at UFC 69 on April 7.

A win by Koscheck could put him in line for a shot at the UFC welterweight title, but during a recent interview with CBS, Koscheck indicated that settling a personal score with Sanchez is foremost on his mind.

Q: You were a four-time NCAA All-American freestyle wrestler while at Edinboro. There was about a three-year gap between when you graduated and your first MMA fight. What did you do right out of college?
JK: Right out of college I went to Penn State. I worked on my master's degree there and was an administrative assistant for the wrestling team. And basically, I was still training to make the United States Olympic team.

Q: Because of your elite status as an amateur combat sports athlete, were you recruited by MMA promotions right out of college?
JK: No. No, the sport wasn't there at the time. You know, they were doing UFCs three times a year. There were only three times a year; you'd watch it on pay-per-view, they were never on cable TV. So, the UFC wasn't even, I would say, close to even being where it is now. You'd rarely even hear of it. You'd get the DVDs here and there or see it on pay-per-view three times a year.

I just knew of a friend who was fighting and basically he asked me if I'd be interested in fighting and I was like "Heck yeah! I love it!" I got hooked up with "Crazy" Bob Cook and Duane Lincoln Jr. at Lincoln Entertainment and basically got on the show The Ultimate Fighter, and the rest is history.

Q: Before you made the decision to convert to MMA, what did you think of it?
JK: I definitely thought it was really cool before. I was just like "That's awesome. Those guys are wrestlers?" Matt Hughes and Randy Couture, I remembered watching those guys wrestle in college. For me, being a wrestler, I was like "Oh man, these guys, they're just wrestlers and they're winning these fights." I was like, "Heck, this is easy." But now you can't just be a wrestler. In the evolution of how far this sport has come, you just can't be one-dimensional. You've got to have everything now.

Q: As you made the conversion to MMA, was there a fighter you looked up to?
JK: I looked up to a lot fighters. I just think that it takes a lot of respect -- just because I know what all fighters go through in the fact of getting in there and training and getting in there putting their life on the line in the Octagon, sometimes. It's a competition, but God forbid something bad happens, but there's that chance that something could happen. I look up to a lot of fighters. Chuck Liddell, obviously. Randy Couture.

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