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Coaching on Season 12 of "The Ultimate Fighter," the Ultimate Fighting Championship's reality series that airs on Spike TV, was kind of a reconnaissance mission for Josh Koscheck.
At the conclusion of the season, which premieres on Sept. 15 and features lightweight fighters vying for a UFC contract, Koscheck will challenge UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre for the title in the main event of a yet-to-be-announced pay-per-view card. So Koscheck took the opportunity while coaching against St. Pierre to learn a little more insight about the champion and, predictably, how to push his buttons.
It will be a classic good guy versus bad guy match for the belt, with the beloved St. Pierre risking his belt against perhaps the most hated man in the UFC this side of Chael Sonnen.
And so Koscheck, who almost never fails to say something if he thinks it will irritate an opponent, spent a lot of his time learning what makes St. Pierre tick.
"GSP's personality is, well, I'll say that I've learned that he's a guy who doesn't like confrontation," Koscheck said Monday. "He tries to act a certain way and be perceived as an A-class person. He doesn't make mistakes and he likes to live his life a certain way. Well, I'm a lot different. I'm a guy who likes conflict. I like to talk. I like to express my feelings and my opinions. I think everyone is going to be interested to see the way our personalities mesh."
There isn't much doubt that Koscheck likes conflict, which he proved on May 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal following his win over Paul Daley in the co-main event of UFC 113 to earn the spot coaching on the show. While the fight card was going on, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup playoff series in Pittsburgh.
Koscheck is from Waynesburg, Pa., which is 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Koscheck is a Penguins fan, and couldn't keep that to himself among a crowd filled with Canadiens fans.
"The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to kick your [expletive]," Koscheck said in the cage that night, grabbing the microphone from broadcaster Joe Rogan. "Then, I'm going to beat St. Pierre, so you guys are going to lose twice. How about that?"
It was typical Koscheck, who beamed as the crowd rained down boos upon him. He can't say specifically what happened during the filming of TUF 12, but rest assured that Koscheck won't let St. Pierre get away without a little conflict and confrontation.
Most important to Koscheck, he believes the time he spent observing St. Pierre helped him spot some flaws he believes he can exploit when they meet later in the year. They've already fought once – St. Pierre won a unanimous decision in a three-round non-title fight at UFC 74 in 2007 – but Koscheck believes he's closed the gap on St. Pierre since that. And he insists his time in the UFC Training Center helped give him a strategy he'll use to his advantage when they fight.
"I saw some weakness in him," Koscheck said, "and I definitely plan to use that against him. I think he knows he has his hands full with me. Well, I don't know, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he doesn't believe I'm a better fighter than I was [in 2007] and if he doesn't, it's his mistake. If he feels that way, I know he's going to wake up after getting knocked out and say to himself, 'Oh [expletive], I should have taken him seriously.' "
Koscheck appeared as a fighter in Season 1, though he was only a collegiate wrestler and knew nothing about mixed martial arts. Everything he learned about MMA came through his training on the show with UFC legend Chuck Liddell, who served as his coach.
Koscheck was stirring the pot in Season 1 and quickly joined forces with Bobby Southworth to harass Chris Leben and become one of the most reviled fighters among UFC fans.
Koscheck has matured to become one of the UFC's elite – he's 15-4 and has won four of his last five – but he did it by training maniacally and immersing himself in the sport.
Koscheck was pleasantly surprised about the talent level of the fighters he had to coach, but said he wasn't about to become a babysitter. The fighters, he said, have had the benefit of watching 11 previous seasons of the show and seeing what happened to those who didn't commit to working on their games.
"I told them to think about how they wanted to come across and to remember that I was in their shoes only five years ago," Koscheck said. "I was there to coach them and help them reach their goals as fighters, but the bottom line is, they're grown men. This thing is all about winning and it wasn't my job to go out and correct personality flaws.
"The talent level of this group is pretty good and I think there are a couple of guys who will stand out. I was impressed by some of them. And it was a good season and I think there are some very interesting moments, some points when you're watching and you go, 'Oh my God, I can't believe that just happened.' "
White said he was pleased with the way both coaches handled themselves, but said he was more pleased by the quality of the fights.
"I think the fights to get into the house kind of set the tone for the rest of the season," White said. "There will be a lot to talk about."
And rest assured, a lot of that talking will be done by Koscheck. It always has and, he insists, it always will.
"I'm confident and I believe in myself and I believe I'm going to win and Georges knows that now," Koscheck said. "How people wind up perceiving that, frankly, I don't care. I think this is a good season and people will enjoy it, but I'm all about winning. If the fans like me, great, but that's not my goal in this. My goal is to get that belt and that's what this is all about."