Josh Koscheck knows his days as an active mixed martial artist are coming to an end.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 cast member harbors no delusions of grandeur at 39 years old, not after five consecutive losses prompted his departure from the UFC and injury woes delayed his Bellator MMA debut by more than a year. In fact, Koscheck says he’s losing money by pursuing cagefighting endeavors at this point in his life.
That’s part of why “Kos” can’t quite commit to anything beyond Saturday’s bout against Brazilian journeyman Mauricio Alonso at Bellator 172 in San Jose, Calif. So far, it’s love of competition that keeps Koscheck, a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Edinboro University, coming back for more.
“My days are numbered, just like everybody’s,” Koscheck said with a laugh. “But as of right now I’m living the dream. Who knows? I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know what [Saturday is gonna bring. I don’t know what after is gonna bring.
“I lose money by coming in and training. I’m away from my company. It is what it is. I’m willing to take that risk to go out there and compete. There’s one thing I love and that’s getting my hand raised. It’s been a while since I’ve had that. That’s the goal. Go out there and compete and get the win.”
Koscheck signed with Bellator in 2015 with an excitement to compete on Spike, the network that jumpstarted MMA’s rise to prominence with “TUF 1.” However, he pulled out of two scheduled bouts and spent much of 2016 recovering from bulging discs in his neck, an ailment which surfaced as a product of a 2001 procedure to fuse his fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae.
“I trained pretty hard and smart for this fight. I trained a lot different than I have in the past,” Koscheck said. “I’m not one of those young kids that can go in there and just hack every single day. When your body tells you you need a day off, you take a day off. But I’m in pretty dang good shape. I think that’s one of things I was pretty surprised about was how quickly my body reacted to getting back into shape.”
However, Koscheck was just barely on the road to recovery when the promotion announced that he would fight former UFC rival Paul Daley at Bellator 158 in London this past summer. At the time, Koscheck was dealing with nerve damage that left him struggling to lift 15 pounds with his left arm. Still, he says the California-based promotion went ahead and booked the matchup in hopes that Koscheck would recover in time for the July 16 event.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Koscheck, who was motivated to sign with Bellator in part because he wanted another crack at the British knockout artist. Koscheck defeated Daley via unanimous decision at UFC 113, and a frustrated “Semtex” threw a cheap shot at his opponent after the final bell. Those actions resulted in a lifetime Octagon ban for Daley.
“I’ll fight Paul Daley any day. In shape, out of shape. The last time around in London, I wasn’t even cleared to fight. They booked the fight, so it kind of made me look bad as far as pulling out of the fight,” Koscheck said. “I kept telling them, ‘Why are you guys booking this fight?’ I told my manager, I’m not even healthy...Even at the press conference I just wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t training, I wasn’t doing much of anything other than working on my companies.”
While Daley claims to have moved on from wanting a rematch with his rival, Koscheck says there is still plenty of heat between the two welterweights.
“ If I saw Paul Daley on the street today in Fresno I’d try to fight his ass, and I’m sure he’d try to fight me. That’s just the mentality we have with each other,” Koscheck said. “He’s getting older too and he keeps getting in these slugfests and he’s getting slower. It’s still the same fight for me. I’ll take him down and beat the piss out of him again and make him cry.”
For now, Koscheck isn’t quite ready to commit to a retirement date, not when the competitive fire still burns. If victory comes for the first time since 2012, Koscheck might find that he wants to go through the whole process again.
“The last year was pretty tough with the neck injury that I had. Those things are never fun,” he said. “I took some time away from the sport for a while and just figured, ‘Why not get back here and get an opportunity to get my hand raised?’ When you’re away from the sport, you kind of miss it until you get back into the training and then you hate it. It’s the competition that drives me. I’ve always been competitive. We’ll see happens. Just take it one day at a time.”