Saturday, March 17, 2007

Waynesburg's Josh Koscheck battling for shot at welterweight championship

By Bobby Fox

It may not be Yankees-Red Sox or Celtics-Lakers, but a heated rivalry is about to be revisited in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA).

In the welterweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), former Waynesburg Central wrestling and football standout Josh Koscheck has put together a record that few can compare to. But, one man, fellow up-and-comer Diego Sanchez, has been more successful.

However, it is more than their success that binds these two. During their stint on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," a reality TV show that centered on several young fighters battling for a shot at UFC stardom, Koscheck and Sanchez proved that they were among the best.

During the semifinals of the show's tournament-style competition, the two locked horns in front of a national television audience. After a hard-fought three-round match, the judges determined that Sanchez bested the former Raider. The New Mexico native went on to win a $250,000 contract with UFC.

Since that loss, many of UFC's fans have wanted one thing ... a rematch.
Well, on April 7, they, along with Koscheck, get their wish.

At UFC 69 "Shootout," Sanchez (18-0-0) will lock up with Koscheck (9-1) in a duel that will not only give fans what they want, but will go a long way in who will get the next shot at welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.

The event will be seen on pay-per-view on April 7.

"Well, I've been asking for this fight for a while, so I was pretty excited about it," Koscheck said. "I've been asking for it for two years. It was originally supposed to take place in New Mexico, his home state."

Rather than Sanchez having a distinct hometown advantage, the showdown will take place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Fans watching live in the Lone Star State and watching on pay per view will get another dose of welterweight action when St. Pierre defends his belt against Matt Serra.

The first time Koscheck and Sanchez locked up, the former Waynesburg standout still felt a little like a fish out of water. While Sanchez had spent several years honing his craft as an MMA fighter, Koscheck was almost completely relying on his wrestling skills.

The Greene County native thinks things will be much different this time.
"The first time we met, I wasn't even a fighter, I was a wrestler," Koscheck said. "Now I have good training partners and coaches and I've changed a lot. I can kick, I can punch, and I can knee."

Though a win will be far from easy, the rewards will be well worth the effort. Along with improving his record to 10-1, a victory would likely skyrocket Koscheck to the top of the welterweight ranks.

"It'd do a lot of good things for my career," Koscheck said. "It would prove to a lot of people that I deserve to be one of the best in the welterweight division."
Since their last dust up, Koscheck has focused on nothing but transforming himself into a well-rounded fighter. While training at the well-known American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, the former NCAA All-American wrestler has also earned a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and continues to improve his striking and submission skills.

While he has concentrated on expanding his fighting repertoire, Koscheck believes Sanchez has remained stagnant.

"I really don't think he's changed that much since we fought," Koscheck said. "I think he may be thinking he's gotten a lot better than he is. I think he's close to the same fighter, but you never know. That's why we fight."

While his rematch with Sanchez is first and foremost on his mind, the Waynesburg native has another major project that he's working on, one that will showcase a completely different set of skills.

Recently, it was announced that Koscheck landed a role in a movie entitled "Never Submit," which will feature several other MMA stars, including former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovsky and the legendary Ken Shamrock.

The chance to appear on the silver screen is something the 29-year-old has dreamed about for years.

"That's definitely something I've always been interested in," Koscheck said. "As a kid I dreamed about being in movies. Fighting has gotten my name out there and they liked what I had to offer. I play a rich kid in the movie and it should be a pretty good thing."

Since his life became focused on fighting, Koscheck has moved far from Pennsylvania to sunny California by way of Buffalo, N.Y., where he was an assistant wrestling coach for the University of Buffalo.

However, the budding star could be making a return home to compete in front of his hometown fans sooner rather than later.

On Feb. 26, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission agreed to legalize MMA fighting in the Keystone State. The next step to bringing the UFC to Pennsylvania is producing a set of rules and regulations, which should take between six and nine months to finish.

Getting to showcase his skills in a venue teeming with fans from his home state is something that has Koscheck very excited.

"That would be a dream come true," Koscheck said. "Mike Swick is fighting on 69 and he's from Houston. What would be better than going home and getting a win and showing a good fight in front of your family and friends?"

So in between honing his acting skills and dreaming about fighting closer to home, Koscheck will still find plenty of time to prepare for the biggest fight of his career, a fight that he is intent on winning.

"I've always had confidence in my skills, that came from years of training," Koscheck said. "I always believe I have to win. I have to beat Diego with what I have."


No comments: