Since he appeared on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," more than five years ago, it's been pretty clear that Josh Koscheck
isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
He's been as outspoken as ever leading up to his Dec. 11 UFC welterweight title fight against champion Georges St-Pierre
– and the evidence can be seen each Wednesday on the current Season 12 of "The Ultimate Fighter" with Koscheck and St-Pierre as opposing coaches.
On Tuesday, at a press conference officially announcing UFC 124
at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Koscheck was asked if he was racist for saying on TUF he doesn't want to lose to anyone – especially St-Pierre, "a French guy." But he said having few filters when it comes to expressing himself goes back a long way.
"I'm not racist by no means," said Koscheck, who lost by decision to St-Pierre at UFC 74 in August 2007. "It's called expression. Love me, hate me – I'll give you expression. Guess what that does? It puts butts in the seats out there, and that's what this is about – me putting on a performance, not only by saying things but by coming into the Octagon and using that expression and winning fights."
In May at UFC 113, Koscheck dominated Paul Daley in a top contenders match for St-Pierre's title. The bout featured a potentially illegal knee from Daley that replays showed grazed Koscheck's famous curly blond hair. After the fight, Daley sucker-punched Koscheck, who then took to the microphone to tell the packed Bell Centre fans their beloved Montreal Canadiens would lose to his Pittsburgh Penguins – and that he was next going to beat their beloved St-Pierre.
"Putting on a performance," indeed. And on that night – as he can expect on Dec. 11 – the vast majority of fans in attendance fell on the "hate" side of the Koscheck line. But Koscheck said the "bad boy" tag is a bit overdone.
"I wouldn't say that I'm a bad guy," Koscheck said. "It seems to me when I'm walking at the airport or at dinner, that's never the case. Maybe it's all an illusion (that I'm a bad guy). But I have fun with this. I'm here to have fun, I'm here to make money and I'm here to win fights. If it becomes un-fun for me and I can't do what I want to do and express myself, then it's time for me to change my job and get a new career. It's going to be a fun fight here in Montreal. The place is going to be packed and it's probably going to be the loudest crowd in the history of the UFC. They're going to be yelling for Georges, and my goal is to piss 22,000 people off and come out of here with a nice, shiny new belt and hop on the plane and get home as quickly as I can."
St-Pierre said his last title defense, a unanimous decision win over Dan Hardy at UFC 111 in March, wasn't a performance he was happy about. He has taken on criticism – including from Koscheck on "The MMA Hour" last month
– for winning too many decisions and not finishing fights. Three of his last four wins have been decisions. But St-Pierre isn't alone in the decision criticism – Koscheck's American Kickboxing Academy teammate Jon Fitch has his last seven wins by decision and hasn't won by stoppage since June 2007.
"I care about winning, but I care also about how I win," St-Pierre said. "I'm not happy about happened in my last fight. I was not able to seal the deal. I know what I did wrong, and I'm the kind of guy who will never make the same mistake twice. If the same opportunity happens again, I will finish the fight. Either he taps, or if he doesn't tap, his limb will break. Every time I fight, I learn – I get better. I'm going into that fight either to win by knockout or submission. I want to take him out. I want to finish the fight. I want to do something better than I did last time. Last time was a decision, now I want to take him out."
But believe it or not, St-Pierre readily admits to Koscheck getting under his skin, both before the taping of "The Ultimate Fighter," certainly during filming and, now, afterward. He said that can do nothing but benefit him.
"Yeah (he's gotten under my skin), but this is a good thing," St-Pierre said. "If you watch my fights, the guys that have been the most arrogant with me, I've performed the best. Matt Serra the second time, Matt Hughes, BJ Penn – I performed the best. I finished them. That's a good thing. When you're under my skin, I think about you all the time. I make the scenario – I'm more mentally prepared, more motivation in the training, I feel like I have more pressure, I feel like I'm right on the edge of falling and I cannot step back. That's when I perform the best. I'm glad that it happened like this. That's perfect for me."
For St-Pierre, it seems, there's plenty of room to dislike Koscheck, and still not make it personal.
"There's no dislike – it's like a mind game," St-Pierre said. "I see (Koscheck's talk) as a game. Fighting for me is not personal. I don't take fighting personal. I'm going to go there, I'm going to promote the fight, and after the fight I'm going to shake his hand. I plan on winning. For me, of course I don't like to be in the same room as him. He's arrogant and I'm about to fight him. But I'm sure if I met him in one year when we don't have to fight each other, who knows?"
UFC 124 takes place at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Dec. 11 on pay-per-view. It will be the promotion's second event in the city in 2010.