Following Josh Koscheck‘s win at UFC 143 on Saturday night over Mike Pierce, the former ‘Ultimate Fighter’ season 1 competitor revealed at the post fight press conference that he had split with his longtime team at American Kickboxing Academy and immediately the MMA world was taken back.
Fighters switching teams or working with different training camps is nothing new, but Koscheck had been a mainstay of the San Jose based gym literally for every fight since season one of the reality show, which took place nearly 8 years ago.
It was for that very reason that when he announced the split, everyone was asking why? What happened that would cause Koscheck the team he had such deep rooted seeds with?
Well, truth be told Koscheck didn’t leave his entire team. As a matter of fact, his training partners are still very much a part of his family and his team.
“First and foremost, my teammates over there at AKA in San Jose are my brothers. I love those guys. 8 years, we’ve basically trained ourselves and got us to the level that we are and we’ve all relied on each other and those guys are forever going to be my teammates, I’m forever going to train with them, but I’m just not going to train in San Jose with them,” Koscheck told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview on Sunday.
“I’ll invite them and I’ll pay them to come to train in Fresno with me when I have fight camps and that type of thing. Those guys are my family. Bob Cook, Dave Camarillo, I’m still going to be managed by Zinkin Entertainment, Bob Cook will still be in my corner and coaching me, he’ll come here a couple days a week and train with me, Dave Camarillo will come here a couple days, and I think I’m going to be better off.”
So what was the driving force behind Koscheck’s exit from American Kickboxing Academy if it wasn’t his teammates or two of his lead coaches?
“There’s one reason I’m leaving San Jose AKA and that’s because of Javier Mendez,” Koscheck stated. “He’s the only reason I’m leaving that gym. It almost hurts me because I love training with those guys, I love training with (Jon) Fitch, and (Mike) Swick and Cain (Velasquez) and (Daniel) Cormier, and (Justin) Wilcox and all those guys, they are my brothers, and it hurts me to have to make this decision for me because the fact that it’s like splitting up the family.”
Javier Mendez is the founder of American Kickboxing Academy and one of the lead trainers, but according to Koscheck his influence became more about his own fame than actually helping the fighters at the gym reach the next level.
Koscheck says the rift with Mendez started all the way back in 2008 after he took a fight with Thiago Alves at UFC 90 on short notice. Koscheck lost the fight by unanimous decision, but it was his coach’s comments afterwards that made his ears perk up a little bit.
“This goes back from quite a bit, and history repeats itself. Whenever you have a guy for example whenever I had the loss against (Thiago) Alves and I took the fight on short notice with him, and after the fight I had a lot of friends come up to me and calling me saying ‘have you read this interview with Javier Mendez?’ and talking about me and my game plan,” Koscheck said.
“So I went online and I read this interview and I started to notice after all my teammates lost, it was the same thing. They didn’t listen to the game plan, that he deferred it away from himself, and he threw us under the bus basically saying that we didn’t listen to him and he tries to make himself look good, so it doesn’t reflect on him us losing.”
The philosophy that Koscheck follows, along with most fighters in MMA, is you win as a team, you lose as a team and no one component is more important than another.
He says that stopped being the case at AKA where Mendez put the focus on himself and not on the fighters any longer, or at least when dealing with Koscheck. He also points out that the team at AKA was built by his managers, and had little to do with Mendez’s influence.
“It’s because DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook recruited us to go there. That’s the only reason that everybody’s there, it’s not because of Javier Mendez, it’s not because of the gym AKA, it’s because of DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook, they built this thing. They brought the best guys in the world together,” Koscheck revealed.
“I’ve lost a lot of respect for Javier Mendez as a coach, as a person, because if you go back and listen to the history of the interviews of him after AKA guys have lost, the interviews he does, go back and look at the Cain Velasquez (fight), go back and look at the Josh Koscheck (fight), the other guys on that team, and see if you can find interviews where he refers to ‘Oh I did my job’ to make himself look good and they didn’t do theirs. That’s not a coach.”
To emphasize his point, Koscheck points towards the positive relationship he’s maintained with his coach and manager Bob Cook along with jiu-jitsu instructor Dave Camarillo. The former NCAA champion still works with both, and will continue to do so despite his exit from AKA.
“Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo they’re always responsible and they take their share of wins and losses and that’s what you’ve got to love about those guys,” stated Koscheck. “Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo, they’re loyal. You lose, guess what it was all of our faults, they take the brunt of that. Javier is more concerned about the camp, and looking good, and who’s going to be the next guy to bring him money. I just can’t be around that anymore.”
Camarillo actually also recently parted ways with AKA to focus on his own gyms, but stated he was still going to be working with some of the fighters like Koscheck and fellow welterweight Jon Fitch.
For his fight on Saturday night, Koscheck admits that his training camp was a rocky place where he felt he had no home. In his bout with Mike Pierce, the former welterweight title contender looked flat at certain times and just didn’t seem himself inside the cage.
The end result was still a win, but it wasn’t the way that Koscheck wanted to perform.
“It was a horrible training camp because of that. I basically trained myself the whole last training camp. Actually more than that, it’s been the last 3 or 4 training camps, I trained myself. So it’s like why be away from Fresno where I have two gyms I build, I have an amazing house, I have amazing family here and friends, and people that support me here. I can’t do that. Had I stayed there my career would only be one or two more fights,” Koscheck admitted.
“There was a lot of poison going on around there and I’m really disappointed because we had a good thing going. It was a good thing and I think people’s egos got in the way. Well, not people just Javier, his ego got in the way, and too many cameras in the gym and him trying to build himself up and his brand, his AKA brand, which is fine I understand that, but it should never take precedence over training guys. As a head coach of a gym and he says he’s the man, he’s the boss over there, he should have the responsibility to make the fighters as best as we possibly could be, but he never did that.”
Koscheck does give Pierce credit for being a great opponent and coming to fight, but simply said that wasn’t the same fighter that knocked out Matt Hughes five months earlier.
“Mike Pierce is a tough fighter, I’m not taking anything away from him, but I feel like I felt at 20-percent. I cruised, I was just like out there to fight just to get another win. I wasn’t myself,” Koscheck stated.
“I think it affected me a lot. I knew I was going to make this announcement after the fight, I obviously wanted to win and have that opportunity to make that announcement at the press conference. I was going to do it in the Octagon. There’s a lot of emotion in this because this has been my life for 8 years. Since I’ve been in the UFC and started my career training, I’ve been there and I don’t know anything different. It’s going to be a new change and a new chapter for me. New beginnings.”
With new beginnings on his mind, Koscheck is looking forward to his future in Fresno inside of his own gym. Currently, Koscheck owns and operates AKA Fresno, which obviously is a namesake of the gym started by Mendez in San Jose.
“I’m not sure yet. I have to sit down and talk with the attorneys on that, but that will all play out when the time comes,” Koscheck said about the name of his gym.
“I’m not really concerned about trying to create a camp, it’s going to happen. I get paid pretty well so I’ll pay guys to come in and train with me for a few weeks. If any fighters want to come train, my doors are open, I’ll give them a free place to live, and a great training atmosphere.”
The great training atmosphere is what Koscheck says he was missing at AKA literally for the last couple of years. He says it’s been two years since he actually received coaching from Mendez, and now with the toxic environment continuing to fester, it was time to move on.
If there’s one thing that Koscheck wants to stress about his exit from AKA is that it does not extend to his teammates and training partners from the gym.
“Those guys are my brothers. They’ll be in my wedding, I know Fitch is going to have a baby soon, I’m going to go up there the day he has his baby, that’s my family. That’s my adopted family. We’ve bled together for 8 years, that ain’t changing,” said Koscheck.
“I’m still going to train with them, but I will never step foot in AKA in San Jose again.”
And as far as the questions about Koscheck now fighting his longtime teammate and close friend Jon Fitch? Well, don’t get your hopes up on that one either.
“That ain’t ever going to happen,” said Koscheck. “I’ll move up a weight class or I’ll just quit. Dana White, he’s great about it, he was joking with me at the press conference and I joked with him back and I said ‘good luck with that one buddy’.
“If me and Fitch became the No. 1 contenders, if we were fighting edge to edge for the title for the No. 1 contender, then I could see why Dana would say ‘yeah you guys need to fight’ but I would probably just end up walking away from the sport. Because it doesn’t mean that much to me to fight a friend.”
Koscheck plans on reaching out to all his friends and teammates from AKA because they are still his family, and he plans on keeping them as such. His reason for leaving is singular, and it goes no further than that.
“Javier Mendez is the only reason I’m leaving,” Koscheck said in closing.
The former ‘Ultimate Fighter’ will take some time to rest up after his win on Saturday night, and then hit the gym again at his new home in Fresno to wait for the call from the UFC to get back in the Octagon again, for the first time ever as Team Koscheck instead of Team AKA.