Polarizing journey of Josh Koscheck

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Updated: March 24, 2015
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If you are a fan of the UFC, then Josh Koscheck has elicited a strong reaction from you in the past ten years. It may have been good or it may have been bad. It may have been verbal or mental or it may have even been physical.

Koscheck, after all, is one the sport’s most polarizing figures. Ever.

A contestant on the original season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in 2005, Koscheck was a big jokester from the outset. With his bleach-blonde mini afro and his goofy laugh, it was all too easy to see that Koscheck was going to be one the show’s big characters from the first episode. By episode 5, it became even clearer. In one of the more infamous scenes in the history of the show, a drunken duo of Koscheck and housemate Bobby Southworth spray a hose on Chris Leben, who is sleeping outside after another incident. The hose incident sends Leben on a rampage, setting up a Leben/Koscheck rivalry that was a big selling point for the rest of the season.

It also set a tone that would become true for later seasons of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ with many fighters gaining fans or detractors based on their personality on the show.

Koscheck would be the first to embrace his villain role.

He used his superior wrestling ability to quickly catapult up the UFC’s welterweight rankings, winning six of his first seven fights in the octagon. Once he topped former friend and ‘TUF’ teammate Diego Sanchez in 2007, two years after Sanchez had won the show, the villain Koscheck came back with a vengeance. Now really on the radar in the UFC, he would lose to George St. Pierre and follow up that battle with a 3-2 stretch.

But never did Koscheck’s mouth slow. Was it the real man or just an act? That is probably something that the casual fan probably will never know. But if you were a Koscheck supporter or (more likely) a Koscheck hater, you tuned in. People either wanted to celebrate a win or see the surging 170-pounder get knocked out.

It was smart business by Koscheck before others were grasping a hold. While the Matt Serras and St. Pierres of the world were selling fights by fighting, Koscheck was using his personality, true or not, to sell himself. Long before Chael Sonnen or Conor McGregor used pro-wrestling style hype to make themselves superstars, Koscheck ran his mouth with the best.

Inside the cage, his rise continued. Wins over legendary Frank Trigg, along with a moderate upset of Anthony Johnson earned him a title contender fight. And then something magical, at least for Koscheck, happened.

After a fight spent mostly holding down opponent Paul Daley with his wrestling and spewing trash talk in his ear, Koscheck emerged victorious. And then Daley sucker punched him. Long after the bell had sounded, the vicious and emotionally overcharged Brit sought Koscheck out from around the referee and landed a punch to Koscheck’s head. It ended Daley’s UFC career and brought forth vial displeasure from UFC President Dana White toward the contest’s loser. But to fans, it made Koscheck even more so the bad guy. What had he said to cause such a reaction from Daley, a guy that didn’t see all that bad? Daley pulled off one of the worst moves in the history of sportsmanship, yet it was Koscheck who came out the least clean, at least in the eyes of the fans.

Koscheck parlayed that into a coaching gig opposite St. Pierre on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and used his childish antics and kindergarten humor to outcast even more fans. Millions were delighted when he was beaten and battered in his title fight loss to St. Pierre at the conclusion of the show. Koscheck’s face swollen almost beyond recognition, he would be diagnosed with a broken orbital bone after the fight, to the delight of pretty much everyone who had watched him for the previous five years.

It was the last time that Koscheck would compete on a high level. He returned to the octagon seven months after his title fight loss to knock out over-the-hill legend Matt Hughes and then earn a split decision over Mike Pierce.

Last weekend, he completed a three-year 0-for-5 run with a guillotine choke loss to Erick Silva. He has been stopped in his last four fights.

Although his recent string of losses have been to high ranking welterweight opponents, including current 170-pound champion Robbie Lawler, the calls for Koscheck to retire have become overwhelming. White himself has said that he will have that talk with the TUF alum soon. His exit from the sport will leave just one original Ultimate Fighter, Sanchez, still in the business.

While his flame has burned out and the chorus of jeers has turned to a sympathetic ‘when will it be enough?’ look in the eyes of most fans, Koscheck’s place in the UFC is cemented as a pioneer. Not only did he showcase the transition of being a one-dimensional wrestler into a modern mixed martial artists with his stand up development, Koscheck was one of the first true characters in the modern (post-TUF) era of the sport; someone who could sell his fights as much with his mouth or his actions.

Koscheck has been polarizing, as much or more than any man in the history of the UFC. And everyone tuned in to see it.

Image Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Dan Vance

Dan is a MMA writer for Sideline Sports Report. A basketball enthusiast and coach, Dan is a die-hard Duke basketball fan, who has seen MMA quickly become his second favorite sport. Dan is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, attended IPFW and is a designer for Fort Wayne’s The News-Sentinel.

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