NEW YORK -- You'd think a fresh start would mean a new sense of perspective for Josh Koscheck.
After all, the veteran welterweight, who meets Johny Hendricks in the co-feature bout of Saturday night's UFC on FOX 3 event, has a new camp and a new sense of purpose.
But at a career point in which many gracefully age into beloved stars, Koscheck has doubled down on his "me against the world" attitude. The fighter fans have loved to hate since "The Ultimate Fighter 1" was in rare form Wednesday at the UFC's open workouts at the famed Church Street Boxing Gym in Lower Manhattan.
"They say I'm old, I'm washed up, I'm this and that," said the 34-year-old Koscheck (17-5). "I don't believe that [expletive]."
In a way, it's easy to see where Koscheck is coming from. He's been through a bitter split with his former coach, Javier Mendez of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif, which adds to his sense that all eyes are on him.
"I think a lot of people are counting me out," Koschck said. "A lot of people want to see me fail. A lot of those people are in San Jose. I've got a lot to prove, that I made the right decision to leave there."
And make no mistake, there's a lot riding on Saturday night's bout at the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, N.J. In his first fight since his departure became public knowledge, the UFC will showcase Koscheck on live network television against a rising star eager to make his name. And Koscheck knows it.
"Everyone's like ‘Why is he fighting Johny Hendricks, why did he take that fight?'" Koscheck said. "To me, I want to fight the best guys. The only way to get to the top is by beating whoever they put in front of me.
"I have a lot more to lose. I'm 34. Look at Randy Couture, he fought ‘til he was like 50. Dan Henderson is 40 years old. I still have a lot of fight left in me."
On paper, the 28-year-old Hendricks presents an interesting conundrum: He possesses knockout power, but he's also an elite wrestler, winning two NCAA titles at Oklahoma State.
"If you watched the Pierce fight, whenever [Pierce] started getting off, Koscheck went to his wrestling and stole the round that way," Hendricks (12-1) said. "That's not going to happen with me. If he wants to wrestle, I'll wrestle."
"I hope he believes he's that good," said Koscheck, himself a former NCAA wrestling champ. "If he does, it's going to be an easy fight for me on Saturday night. He kind of does believe he's a good standup fighter and that he's better than what he is. For me, that's going to play to my advantage and I'll show you guys on Saturday. If he wants to wrestle, that's fine, because when he tries for takedowns he shoots from far away. That plays to my benefit as well."
Koscheck said he realized moving on from AKA was the right decision after his unmotivated showing against Pierce.
"I thought my last performance sucked, he said. "I just was flat, didn't really warm up in the back, was just kind of ‘whatever, just another fight.' [Fighting] Mike Pierce, what is there for me to gain off that? Nothing. Just a paycheck. I like the money, but I want to get in position to win a championship. Fighting Mike Pierce isn't going to get me there. Fighting Johny Hendricks? He just beat the No. 2 guy [Jon Fitch] in 12 seconds."
While his new camp is based out of his gym in his adopted hometown of Fresno, Koscheck is still surrounded with familiar faces, trainers such as Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo. Koscheck said the sense of familiarity has allowed him to regain his swagger.
"When you're in a place and you're feeling unhappy, you don't feel you're reaching your potential," Koscheck said. "Now I'm in a place I enjoy being in, enjoy going to the gym. Part of my problem was getting out of [AKA}, putting a new chapter in my life. I feel like I re-energized my career."
But Koscheck still doesn't need to look far find a reason to place a chip on his shoulder, taking assembled reporters to task for allegedly calling him too old to compete anymore.
"Let's be real. Randy Couture, is that a rare case? Dan Henderson's 40, right? Is that a rare case? Chuck Liddell was what, 37, 38. You guys are retards if you count me out. Pisses me off. You guys are crazy. I can't wait to prove all you guys wrong. Keep counting me out. ... Every time you write about me, tell me I'm too old, too washed up, too many fights. Too many miles. I like that."