Summoning a Villain

Iron Sharpens Iron

By Yael Grauer Feb 1, 2012
Mike Pierce wants to make waves in the welterweight division. | Photo:

Josh Koscheck has called out his fair share of fighters but usually does not find himself on the receiving end of the equation.

That changed with Mike Pierce in a series of events that began with an injury to reigning welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and led to an interim title bout between Nick Diaz and Koscheck’s original opponent, Carlos Condit, at UFC 143 this Saturday in Las Vegas.

“GSP ended up getting injured and wasn’t able to fight, which left people without opponents; Condit and Diaz ended up getting matched up, which left Koscheck without an opponent, and I saw an opportunity and jumped on it,” Pierce recalls. “I asked for the fight and ended up getting it.”

While Koscheck may have as many enemies as he does fans, Pierce has no problem with the onetime NCAA wrestling champion.

“He’s actually a guy that I’ve rooted for before,” Pierce admits. “I wanted him to win when he fought Diego Sanchez. I like to root for wrestlers. I know they’re both wrestlers, but I wanted Koscheck to win at the time, and there’s been other times, other people he’s fought. Like when he fought Paul Daley, I wanted him to beat the piss out of Paul Daley -- I really did -- and I was happy about how it turned out. Josh did a good job, so I really don’t have anything personal against the guy, but he’s kind of promoted himself as one of those guys that the fans either tune in because they like him or they tune in because they want to see him get his ass kicked, and I want to give the fan what he wants to see.”

Interestingly enough, Koscheck has not attacked Pierce with his usual stream of trash talk. Instead, he has remained quiet.

“It’s been kind of unusual,” Pierce says. “Usually, Koscheck has something to say about his opponents, and, usually, it’s a lot, but this time around, not so much. I don’t know why, but maybe he’s kind of grown out of that and onto other things. Who knows?”

Robert Follis, Pierce’s head MMA coach, admits to a certain level of disappointment in the absence of Koscheck rhetoric.

Josh Koscheck File Photo

Koscheck has 14 UFC wins.
“We were actually kind of looking forward to hearing something,” he says. “We stepped up, we picked the fight and we kind of waited for the ball to be hit back, and it kind of sat over on his side of the court. It’s hard to play catch with someone who won’t throw the ball back. It’s hard to keep the banter going; it’s kind of weird when it’s just one side.”

Pierce had sought to fight Koscheck once before, but the American Kickboxing Academy standout chose another route.

“I think we might be in his head a little bit,” Follis speculates. “It’s hard to say. I’d just be guessing, but I haven’t heard him say anything and that isn’t his normal M.O. Usually, he’s got something to say, and he’s been extremely quiet. I mean, I haven’t seen a peep from him on this fight. I think he knows he’s in for a really tough fight, and I think, stylistically, he understands that this fight is not an easy fight.

“I’m sure he’s watched what happened with [Johny] Hendricks with [Paul] Bradley and knows how good of wrestlers they are and knows he doesn’t have an edge there,” he adds. “And Mike’s standup is really good and getting better every fight, so I think that he may be a little leery of talking smack and being worried that this is going to be a tougher fight than what a lot of people are expecting just based on how much notoriety Koscheck has had over Mike.”

Pierce, who has never been finished, has doubts as to whether Koscheck even wanted the fight.

“A lot of people don’t see me as a Top 10 or Top 5 fighter yet,” he says. “They don’t really know my name as much as a Josh Koscheck or a Carlos Condit or some of these other guys that have a little more clout in the UFC, so I don’t think it was something he was really desiring, but, at the same time, it was an opportunity for me to jump on, so I really think he has everything to lose and I have everything to gain. It’s one of those situations.”

Pierce’s road to the UFC has not been easy or straightforward. He grew up playing baseball and football, but it was his childhood love for World Wrestling Entertainment -- it was then called the World Wrestling Federation -- that drew him into amateur wrestling in middle school.

“I remember one time as a sixth-grader I heard some announcement that there was a meeting about wrestling at the end of the day down at the library, and I was really excited. I was, like, ‘Awesome man! I’m going to be jumping off ropes and hitting people with chairs and doing all sorts of crazy stuff!’ And, of course, I go to this meeting and it’s totally different than what I had pictured in my head,” Pierce remembers. “The only thing I knew at the time was a football tackle, and I asked the coach, ‘So, is a football tackle legal? Can you do that?’ He’s, like, ‘Yeah, but we call that a double-leg in wrestling.’ So that’s was how I very first got started in wrestling. I thought it was WWF.”

Pierce -- who splits his training time between the Sports Lab and Team Quest -- later wrestled for Portland State University for a year, going right from high school to the varsity squad and competing as a true freshman.

“I did really well,” he recalls. “I got fourth in the Pac-10, went back to Nationals, beat a couple guys and then ended up getting bumped out of tournament.”

Still, Pierce elected to drop out of college to sell cars.

“I was making good money, but the lifestyle wasn’t really for me,” he says. “I was working long hours and I needed a change, and that’s when I really made the decision that I needed to give MMA a shot.”

To that end, Pierce’s father helped him get into a carpenter’s apprentice program, where he worked for two years as a union carpenter while also training for MMA at night.

“It was a good platform for me to work early and get off early to train at night, and, of course, I had union benefits,” he says. “If I ever hurt myself or whatever by accident, whether on the job or in the ring or cage, I was taken care of.”

However, working in such a physically intensive job was not easy.

“It really sucked,” Pierce says. “I was doing sheet rock and steel studs, and I was working on commercial buildings. There was a project I was on that was a real big one; the Oregon Health Sciences University built a tram that goes from their Northern campus to their Southern campus, and I was on the project on the campus, up on the hill building this big huge staging area for where the tram comes up and drops people off and then takes them back down.

“It was a cool project that I was on, but hanging these big pieces of concrete board and packing steel studs around and going up and down scaffolding all the time, it was a workout in itself, and then you’d get off in the afternoon and go work out,” he adds. “Doing two years of that really kind of sucked but it was worth it and it paid off and I was then able to do MMA full-time and eventually get into the UFC, but two years of doing that routine was enough for me.”

Finish Reading » “He’s stepped up, he’s improving and I really think we have a phenomenal shot -- if we do the right things in this fight -- at pulling off a victory, although I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”


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