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5 Oz. Exclusive Interview: Josh Koscheck responds to Diego Sanchez; calls out Matt Hughes; and more!

070128koscheck.jpgFollowing his recent win over Dustin Hazelett at UFC 82 in Columbus, Ohio, welterweight contender Josh Koscheck officially became a free agent. FiveOuncesOfPain.com (www.FiveOuncesOfPain.com) was recently granted an opportunity to speak with Koscheck but when asked about his current contract status he made it clear that he has every intention of working out a new contract with the UFC.

During the course of the interview, Koscheck also renewed his campaign for a match against former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes while also taking the opportunity to respond to recent comments made about him by Diego Sanchez.

The transcript of our conversation with Koscheck is now available below.

Sam Caplan: Going into the fight you had said you hadn’t seen much of Dustin Hazelett. He got off to a fast start against you at UFC 82. What were your impressions of him coming out of that fight?

Josh Koscheck: Like I said, coming into the fight I didn’t know too much about Dustin Hazelet. The funny thing was that I spoke with Bob Cook (one of Koscheck’s trainers at the American Kickboxing Academy) right after the weigh-ins and Bob Cook told me there were interviews of Dustin on the Internet where he said he doesn’t have any striking and basically his only chance (to win) was to submit me from his back and that was his game plan. So I was like, “S—, maybe I’m going to standup with this guy and take advantage of it. So basically he had some good striking and he tried to pull a fast one on me (laughs). He came out bombing and threw a beautiful head kick and caught me flush. It was an exciting fight, I thought.

Sam Caplan: That was a pretty strong finish to the fight. Did you think it might contend for the “Knockout of the Night” award?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, I thought so but it’s what it is. It would have been nice to have an extra 60 K in my pocket but the UFC has always been good to me so I’m not going to complain.

Sam Caplan: Our Adam Morgan asked you about your impending free agency status in an interview with us last week and while saying you didn’t want to comment on it, you described the situation as “tough times.” Was that an indication that you aren’t happy with the progress thus far in contract talks?

Josh Koscheck: No, I don’t think I ever said that but it’s what it is. My management and the UFC will deal with that. My job is to train, fight, do interviews, and have a good time. I just prefer to let my management handle that and that’s what I pay them for.

Sam Caplan: How much contact do you have with your management in regard to negotiations? Do you call then once a week, once a day, multiple times a day? How close are you to the talks?

Josh Koscheck: My manager, Bob Cook, I’m on the phone with him every day. When I’m in training camp I actually live with him. And I have Dwayne Zinkin, who is the president. When I’m in Fresno he’s almost like my father. He’s a good guy. I’m at his house every night. My girlfriend and his girlfriend are sisters. So we have a very close relationship and Zinkin Entertainment is one of the best management companies out there. We have Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, Mike Swick, (and) Jon Fitch. They have like 50 fighters on top of some WWE wrestlers.

Sam Caplan: Does the UFC hold a right of first refusal in which they could opt to match a contract you might sign with a competing promotion?

Josh Koscheck: Honestly I really don’t care to talk about the contract because that’s my manager’s job. You’re wasting your breath and mine so that’s what his job is. If my manager says “Hey, that’s the best deal,” then that’s the best deal. I believe him.

Sam Caplan: I’ve had a chance to interview you a few times now, and you seem like a very likable guy. However, you generate a lot of heat from live crowds. When you do interviews to promote a fight, do you ever deliberately do things just to sell a fight?

Josh Koscheck: Of course. It’s my job! My job is to get as many people as I can to watch that. It’s like this; the more ratings go up, the more people buy when I fight and that means I’ve done my job. It’s business relationship. When I signed with the UFC, I looked at it as a business relationship. My job is to train and show up and put on the best performance that I can but to also get as many people as I can to watch.

Ultimately the money comes back to me because the more people that watch and love me, hate me, and buy t-shirts from my website, the more people will support me. So it’s all about that but some things are true. You get pissed off fighters and you want to say things to get in there heads.

A lot of this is a business. You guys interview fighters and write stories and get people to go to your web page, that’s your business. My business is to get as many people as possible to watch my fight.

Sam Caplan: When people react negatively to something you say to help sell a fight do you feel that maybe they are taking things too seriously?

Josh Koscheck: People have opinions and it’s what it is. You can’t please everybody and make everyone love you. And you can’t make everybody happy. The way I look at is that as long as I’m doing my job and getting as many people as I can to watch the fight, then job well done. For me, I just focus on myself. I’m a very selfish person when it comes to me and I just try to do the things that make me happy and the things that I want to do.

Sam Caplan: It’s interesting that you mention being selfish because I know some fighters that watch every organization out there and try to keep tabs on as many fighters as possible. And then some fighters, for instance, a guy like Tito Ortiz, he’s just honest and says he’s only concerned about his career and that he’s so focused on advancing his career that he’s really not aware of what else is going on. Which category do you fall into?

Josh Koscheck: I fall into the Tito Ortiz category. To be honest with you, I try not to go to other fights unless I have a friend fighting. I don’t go to the UFC unless one of my friends are fighting. I’m worried about Josh Koscheck and that’s it. If I worry about what everybody else is doing then I’m going to lose sight of what’s important to me. And what’s important to me is getting in the gym every day and trying to become a better fighter. (My goal) is to become a more complete fighter and a more exciting fighter.

That’s my goal — to become a more exciting fighter so that I can get on that level of Chuck Liddell. He’s a superstar and hanging out with him I see the way the crowd and public responds to him. And that’s what I want. Not only is he an awesome person but he’s got a lot of money. He’s the number one guy in the sport and that’s the direction I want to go into.

Sam Caplan: And you mentioned that you try not to go to fights unless you or your friends are involved. Would it be safe to assume that you don’t follow competing promotions of the UFC’s?

Josh Koscheck: No, I don’t really care about the other promotions. I’m with the UFC and that’s the only one I really care about.

Sam Caplan: You’re a free agent but it sounds as though the UFC is the place where you want to be. With your win over Dustin Hazelett is there a specific direction within the UFC of where you want to go next?

Josh Koscheck: Yeah, definitely. I want to fight someone that’s on top that could possibly get me back into the title picture. Maybe a Matt Hughes? I think that would be a great fight for the fans and that would put me right back in line. That fight only makes sense. We’ve both lost to St. Pierre (so) why not give me that opportunity?

I don’t think it’s really fair that Matt Hughes wants to sit on the sideline and fight the loser of St. Pierre vs. Serra or just fight Matt Serra, it doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is a Josh Koscheck vs. Matt Hughes fight and then the winner of that gets right back in line.

Sam Caplan: There was a story in a recent print edition of the Wrestling Observer about Matt Hughes not wanting to be a gate-keeper, and thus not wanting to fight you at UFC 79. Do you feel in any way that Hughes might be concerned about you?

Josh Koscheck: In my opinion, yeah. Gate keeper? Obviously he doesn’t have much confidence in himself then. I think that fight makes sense right now. Maybe the UFC will step up and offer him the fight? I think it makes sense for the fans (and) I think it makes sense for the division. We’ve both lost to St. Pierre and what better way to get your career back on track than by beating me? It’s a good fight for him and it’s a good fight for me. The winner will be right back on track and one or two fights away from a title shot.

Sam Caplan: You’re a guy that has a tendency to draw some boos from the crowd but outside of the Midwest, Matt Hughes is definitely a guy who gets booed. How do you feel about Matt Hughes the person?

Josh Koscheck: I’ve hung out with Matt Hughes and we’re similar in a lot of ways. We both come from a wrestling background and we’re both kind of arrogant and cocky. I just think it would be a great fight.

I don’t think his game has evolved. He’s been in the sport for nine or ten years and I don’t think his game has evolved to where he’s become a complete fighter. I think he’s a one-dimensional fighter. If he can’t take you down, he’s going to have a hard time with you. I just think he’s definitely one of the best fighters ever in the UFC.

But the thing about being a gate keeper… It’s just like Randy Couture retiring and not giving (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira the opportunity to step in and fight. If he’s going to continue to fight, he’s got to fight somebody. So who is he going to fight? Georges St. Pierre again? I mean, honestly? He’s either got to step up and fight or retire; it’s one or the other.

Sam Caplan: So you think Matt Hughes’ standup game is a weakness?

Josh Koscheck: Oh yeah, definitely. I just don’t think his game has evolved. His standup hasn’t evolved to the level of where it needs to be. If he’s on his back I don’t think his back game in jiu-jitsu has evolved. He’s a good wrestler so he’s very good from the top but I just think his game hasn’t evolved to where it needs to be.

Sam Caplan: In a previous answer, you alluded to Randy Couture leaving the UFC while still heavyweight champion. Did you lose any respect for Couture based on his decision to leave the UFC while still the champ?

Josh Koscheck: I’ve always had respect for Randy Couture, especially how he came back at the age he did and beat Tim Sylvia. That was an amazing thing he did at his age. For me to clown on Randy Couture would be a mistake.

I think Randy Couture is a great champion. I think Randy Couture is a classy person. I think he’s well-respected in mixed martial arts and outside of mixed martial arts. Obviously Randy Couture had issues he needed to deal with and he probably based those decisions on him and his family.

I can’t really comment much on Randy Couture in making the right decision or the wrong decision but I just think that if he’s going to come back and fight then he needs to step up and possibly fight for the UFC and give Nogueira a chance if he’s going to continue to fight. But if he’s not going to continue to fight then he stays retired and he made the right decision for him and his family. That’s the most important thing; Randy making the right decision for himself and his family.

Sam Caplan: I know you are probably tired of talking about Diego Sanchez at this point but he’s made some new comments about you in the recent week. In an interview with MMAWeekly.com, he said the following:

“One that would be big for my heart and soul would be Josh Koscheck. The number one question that everyone always asks me is, ‘When are you going to kick that Josh Koscheck’s ass?’ So hopefully, maybe in June or July, we can go ahead and set that fight up.”

Is that a rematch that has any appeal to you?

Josh Koscheck: Obviously it has an appeal to me because the guy just hasn’t learned his lesson yet. The heart of the matter is that the guy wins one fight after two losses and he thinks he can call me out. Personally, I had to wait two years and be miserable knowing that I lost to that guy. So I’m going to make him think about it.

I’m going to make him think about it but that fight is going to happen again but it’s going to happen on my terms because I won the last one. Diego, I think he needs to win a couple more fights and I think he needs to improve his game because his game isn’t good yet. He’s one dimensional. He has no standup. All he can do is take you down and try to pound on you.

For Diego, his time is coming. He just hasn’t matured yet and hasn’t grown up but his time is coming. It’s what it is. But I’m in his head and I’ve probably been in his head for the last year. It’s probably one of the reasons why he lost to Jon Fitch. Jon Fitch is a much better fighter than him anyway, so it doesn’t matter but in all the interviews all he said was that he couldn’t wait to beat Jon Fitch and then avenge his loss to me. Obviously I’m in his head and it’s a good time. It’s a good time to be Josh Koscheck and having a win over Diego Sanchez, that’s for sure.

But there’s also this thing of everybody making excuses, “Oh, he had a staph infection” and this and that. You know, people get injured all the time. I’ve had my knee shot up almost almost every fight. You know what I mean? That’s a part of the sport. Deal with it and stop making excuses. Everybody is out there making excuses, “Oh, he had this and was sick” or “He had a staph infection.” Well, guess what? People get injured every fight. You know this last fight I had the worst training camp of my life. I was sick and I had a hurt back the whole time. And guess what? I still went out and performed, didn’t I? Yeah, exactly. So stop making excuses Diego and you’ll get your chance. I’m not running from you, that’s a guarantee. And I’m going to make you eat those words of wanting to fight me.

Sam Caplan: I know you might be kind of biased, but in your mind is there anyone more deserving of a welterweight title shot than Jon Fitch?

Josh Koscheck: There’s nobody more deserving of a title shot in the welterweight division. I’ve said this in several interviews; when me and Mike Swick were on the reality show, we were out there in the public eye becoming famous almost over night because of the reality show on the UFC. Jon Fitch was at our level but didn’t have any PR and wasn’t making the money we were making at the time. The poor kid was in the gym just training his ass off and look where he’s at now?

He’s truly self-made. Jon Fitch is a self-made UFC fighter. He’s put his time in. He put his dues in while we were on tours and getting the PR and getting the big sponsorships but Jon Fitch was in the gym sacrificing. Now it’s paying off for him and I’m really happy for Jon Fitch. Not only is he a training partner but he’s a good friend. He’s just a genuine person that really care about mixed martial arts and becoming a champion.

Sam Caplan: I interviewed Fitch recently and asked him about some of the top prospects at AKA. He mentioned a heavyweight by the name of Cain Velasquez. Fitch was pretty high on him, in fact. What do you think of him?

Josh Koscheck: You guys are going to see Cain Velasquez in April. He’s going to be a phenomenal. I believe right now that he can compete for the UFC heavyweight title. I’m the type of guy that doesn’t give much credit to other fighters. Like I said, I’m selfish and only care about myself (laughs). But this kid is a good kid and I think he can bring back the heavyweight division in the UFC.

Sam Caplan: Last question and I wanted to ask you about MAR Clothing. Frank Trigg has claimed that he’s the only fighter to own his own clothing line. Do you own a piece of MAR or are you just endorsing their line?

Josh Koscheck: No, I actually own the line. That’s kind of funny Frank Trigg says that because Tito Ortiz owns his own line to. I own MAR Clothing. It’s something I started three years ago. We’re just trying to work with fighters and just grow an image and get that logo out there as much as we possibly can.

We’re looking to potentially give back and sponsor up and coming fighters and UFC fighters. I work with Chuck Liddell. He’s on there. Forrest Griffin, a little bit. Jon Fitch, Mike Swick, and the newcomer Cain Velasaquez. You can pick up his shirt actually and it’s pretty bad ass. I actually wear Cain’s shirt pretty much all the time. It’s a fun thing and it keeps me busy when I’m not training or fighting.

Sam Caplan: How important are sponsors? I asked Joe Stevenson if he’d be able to train full-time without his sponsors and he laughed and said no way. What situation would you be in right now without sponsors?

Josh Koscheck:
Well, I probably wouldn’t drive the Hummer that I’m driving and I probably wouldn’t have the house that I have, that’s for sure. I do very, very well with sponsors and I’m very thankful that I have awesome managers to get the sponsorships going. So I really appreciate all of my sponsors. You can check them all out at Kos MMA. I’d especially like to thank Sprawl Fight Shorts, they’ve definitely been a big supporter of me.

It would definitely be hard without the sponsors. Especially because I was in the Ultimate Fighter contract and everyone knows how those contracts work. It was great at the time and I had an awesome time doing it, but for me, without sponsors it definitely would have been hard.