I have always been a bit of a Josh Koscheck fan, but after hearing his comments following his departure from the American Kickboxing Academy, as well as Brian Ebersole's recent comments about him, I find it hard to keep rooting for the guy. Even worse, he's got a dangerous fight coming up against Johny Hendricks, and I could see it ending in disaster. Do you think this could be a real catastrophe for "Kos"? --Mike from New York
Tristen Critchfield, associate editor: I never thought I’d be quoting a line from the movie “Cocktail” to answer a question regarding mixed martial arts, but Koglan the Bartender could very easily have been talking about Koscheck’s unceremonious departure from AKA when he dropped this pearl back in 1988: “Everything ends badly ... otherwise, it wouldn’t end.” Anyone who has followed Koscheck’s career since he appeared on Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter” knows that a teary-eyed tribute, a la Peyton Manning at his Indianapolis farewell, was unlikely to come from a man who is known far and wide for having an abrasive personality.
Could there have been a more diplomatic way to sever the ties with one of the world’s most respected gyms? Absolutely, but Koscheck chose to throw the coaching staff, particularly Javier Mendez, under the bus on his way out by saying that the fighters were solely responsible for the San Jose, Calif.-based facility’s success. There is probably more to the Koscheck-Mendez beef than has been revealed, but in gyms that attract large numbers of top-tier talent, fractures are inevitable. Just recently, Melvin Guillard left Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts for Imperial Athletics, citing the need for more individual instruction. That departure came on the heels of what was probably the longest run of success in Guillard’s UFC career.
In the big picture, Koscheck’s relocation to Fresno, Calif., shouldn’t hurt his preparation too much. He isn’t trying to run the whole show himself, and it seems like he will continue a working relationship with his former stablemates. Fighters are nomadic by nature, and even the most loyal student will occasionally travel to supplement his training. Koscheck had been anchored at AKA since 2004, so perhaps he began to feel stagnant. As for Ebersole’s comments, well, it’s no secret that plenty of people agree with the assessment that Koscheck is a “d--k.” All you have to do is listen to the chorus of boos that accompany the former NCAA national champion wrestler each time he enters the Octagon.
Being a villain is not disastrous to one’s career, however. Koscheck appears to relish the role, and it has not affected his success over the years. Given the infusion of talent in the UFC’s welterweight division and Koscheck’s advancing age -- at 34, he no longer qualifies as an up-and-comer -- his days as a Top 5 welterweight could soon be numbered. Koscheck gave a so-so performance in his last outing against Mike Pierce -- a bout many believe he should have lost. He will have to improve against Hendricks, a wrestler who can match both his resume and his athleticism.
As of today, I favor Hendricks, though I don’t expect another knockout punch like the one that floored Jon Fitch at UFC 141. Does losing that fight qualify as a catastrophe for Koscheck? Against a fighter with as much talent and potential as Hendricks, I think not. But given the circumstances surrounding his exit from AKA, there might just be a few more people than usual rooting for him to fail.
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