When Josh Koscheck burst onto the MMA scene, he was an accomplished wrestler, but a raw fighter. A spot on the cast of the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" changed all that. The unknown fighter has turned into one of the more successful and popular fighters to come from the reality show that helped build the UFC.
Now, Koscheck is back on the set of TUF for its 12th season, debuting Wednesday night on Spike TV. This time, he's the coach, facing off with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. He will face GSP in the cage on Dec. 11 at UFC 124.
For Koscheck, the experience of returning to the show was surreal.
"When I first went on TUF, I was just a wrestler. I had no idea how to fight. I had no training," Koscheck told Cagewriter. "Wrestling was my training. I was pretty much just focused on learning how to fight, and now here I am, six years later, fighting for the world championship."
That doesn't mean he was uncomfortable in front of the cameras.
"I love the spotlight. I love the power of television. It is the greatest tool in the world to get your news out there. The more you get on TV, the more you have TV following you, the more money that equates to, the more fame you have, and fame equals money."
He doesn't even mind when the publicity is wrong. Earlier this year, a rumor spread that Koscheck was dating Playboy model Holly Madison.
"I like publicity. Whether it's good or bad. It's going to get people talking, it's going to put your name in the spotlight. I'm not dating Holly Madison. I never was. We're good friends. I'm not saying there's never a chance. We're good friends, but right now, I'm focused on winning fights and building a career rather than looking for a girlfriend."
"Who's Dan Hardy?"
Koscheck laughed off comments that fellow fighters Dan Hardy and Shinya Aoki had made about wrestling.
"Who's Dan Hardy? Let's be real. I don't know what they're saying, but if they want to do kickboxing, then they should go find a new profession. This is mixed martial arts. If you want to learn how to keep the fight standing and not be so boring and get taken down, then cry about getting taken down, go find a wrestling team and learn how to wrestle. Simple as that. If you don't want to get taken down and beat up, learn how to get up. Learn how to stop the takedowns."
As a national champion for Edinboro University's wrestling team, Koscheck knows the value of the sport.
"If people understood wrestling more and understood what it takes to compete at that level, they would give it more of a chance. There's thousands and thousands of young kids out there aspiring to be great wrestlers, they're having less and less chances of going to college because they're taking programs away."
"Life would be boring if you didn't have controversy"
Koscheck promises that he did his part in making TUF an interesting show.
"If this show is successful, it's probably not going to be because of Georges St. Pierre's personality," he said with a laugh.
Koscheck knows he's seen as a heel. Though he genuinely is a nice guy in person, he says being a villain comes naturally.
"I didn't have to work on it. I've always been an ornery little [expletive]. I have a knack for getting under people's skin. I want to be an entertainer. I want to be the guy who makes money outside of the cage. If I've got to be the villain to do it, then I'll do that.
"Life would be boring if you didn't have controversy. This sport would be boring if you had guys who were just like a Georges, who looks like a robot, talks like a robot, and fights like a robot. You need guys out there with personality. There's not many guys who are out there who are willing to do that. I'm willing to do that.
"Georges St. Pierre was a better guy that day"
He's now looking forward to fighting the "robotic" GSP. He lost the first chance at GSP in a unanimous decision at UFC 74, just two years into his fight career. Still, he won't make excuses.
"Regardless of [whether] it was too early or not, I had the opportunity to go in and win, and I didn't do that. I'm never going to make an excuse saying, it was too early. I was too young. Georges St. Pierre was a better guy that day. I know what I've got to do to make changes, and to take my second chance and come out with a victory. Come December 11, in Montreal, I have to find a way to win. I plan on doing that."
Koscheck does not plan on resting on his laurels when facing GSP.
"I want to keep this fight in position to win. I have to make sure my wrestling is up to par, because George is one of the best at disguising wrestling in MMA. He's fast. I have to be able to control the fight and put the fight in my position. I believe that my best chance is to keep the fight on my feet and knock Georges out."
Koscheck believes that he's in the better position to win since GSP will have more pressure on him, fighting in front of a home crowd and defending the belt.
"He's already beat me once. I have no pressure to go into Montreal and win this belt. He's the guy who's the champ. I'm the underdog. I like being the underdog. I like that I get to bet money on myself, which, I already have. I like that I get to hear a lot of 'F YOU KOSCHECK!' and a lot of boos."
"I plan on pissing off 22,000 people on December 11."
Check back Wednesday for more from Koscheck.