Josh Koscheck will fight for the first time as a former American Kickboxing Academy member when he collides with Johny Hendricks in the UFC on Fox 3 “Diaz vs. Miller” co-main event on Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
While Koscheck has distanced himself from the famed San Jose, Calif., gym, he has not cut ties completely. He continues to work with American Kickboxing Academy trainers Bob Cook, Dave Camarillo and Jasper Tayaba.
“I joined AKA when I first started fighting,” Koscheck said during a pre-fight teleconference. “I’ve got a lot of new faces, but I still have old faces involved in my training.”
In advance of his high-stakes showdown with Hendricks, a four-time NCAA All-American and two-time national wrestling champion at Oklahoma State University, Kosheck hired Alan Fried, another decorated OSU wrestler. Fried compiled a stellar 129-6 record as a Cowboy.
“I’ve made a lot of changes,” Koscheck said. “I have a couple of the guys from San Jose coming in and out, but this whole camp I’ve had a lot of new training partners that I hand-picked and flew in and out. I’d have guys come in for five to 10 days and then get a new group of guys coming in, so it’s been a good training camp, probably one of the better training camps I’ve had in a while. The focus has been 100 percent me.
“I have new striking coaches, [with] personal time and personal attention with those types of coaches,” he added. “I think that I’ve got a lot of good people around me and a lot of people that actually care, so that was the biggest change.”
Time will soon tell whether or not the decision to leave familiar surroundings was wise. Consider Hendricks a litmus test. The once-beaten World Extreme Cagefighting import has become one of the welterweight division’s hottest commodities, having rattled off three consecutive victories. Hendricks last appeared at UFC 141 in December, when he needed just 12 seconds to waylay perennial Top 10 contender Jon Fitch, Koscheck’s former AKA stablemate. Since the 28-year-old joined the UFC in 2009, he has scored three finishes in 95 seconds or less.
Koscheck remains ever confident.
“I don’t care where the fight takes place,” he said. “I just know I’m going to win. If it’s on the ground, whatever; if it’s standing up, whatever.”
At 34, Koscheck seems to realize his window of opportunity near the top of the 170-pound division could be closing, especially with young lions like Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger on the rise. An impressive win over Hendricks could thrust him into title contention once again, with Carlos Condit in possession of the interim belt as longtime champion Georges St. Pierre recovers from reconstructive knee surgery.
“It’s a big fight. There’s a lot riding on this fight, I think, for both of us,” Koscheck said. “The winner goes on to a nice path towards a title shot, and the loser goes ... who knows? There’s a lot at stake in this fight, and I feel like I’m ready to roll.”