Whether he gets the credit or not, Josh Koscheck has been a big part of the UFC reaching the place it is today.
Following the post-TUF boom of 2005, the era where the company experienced its biggest growth, "Kos" was the "anytime, any place" fighter the organization needed. He logged an impressive 13 fights in the three year span of 2005-08.
That type of activity and the success he accrued along the way made him a staple in the upper-tier of a consistently competitive welterweight division. As he climbed the divisional ladder toward a title shot, the former AKA staple became the fighter MMA fans loved to hate, and the black hat of the villain was a role that suited him well.
Few fighters have ever been universally loathed the way Koscheck has, and that energy grew the more wins he collected inside the Octagon.
That said, the current situation the 35-year-old finds himself in is a foreign one to say the least. A split from his long-time gym in San Jose early in 2012 and losses in back-to-back outings have him looking to forge the next great chapter of his career. He's committed his training efforts to his Dethrone Base Camp in Fresno and set his sights on turning the ship around this weekend when he faces Tyron Woodley at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, Nev. Koscheck told Bleacher Report.
It's been good, and I have all the pieces I need in place. I have a good boxing coach, good striking coaches and jiu-jitsu coaches as well. It is what it is, and at this point in my career, I don't need a ton of different training partners. I need good people who are going to show up everyday, help push me to be a better fighter and some good coaching. That's all I need.
With both having strong wrestling pedigrees and put away power in their hands, the matchup between the two is very similar on paper. That said, Koscheck believes he has more gas behind his ability to grind and feels that will help him get the job done on Saturday night.
I think the biggest difference in this fight is that I come in great shape, and Woodley has a tendency to gas out. He throws a few combinations now, but I don't see any drastic improvements in him from one fight to the next. Hopefully, he's improved more for this one, and we can go out there and put on a good fight.
With the UFC celebrating their 20th anniversary in the lead up to Saturday night's event, Koscheck finds himself one of the last men standing from a different era. Alongside Diego Sanchez, the former NCAA D-I national champion wrestler is not only one of the last competitors from the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter still standing, but still competing at the forefront of the sport.
Still being one of the best fighters in his weight class after nearly a decade certainly means something, even for a guy as historically short on words as the former title challenger is.
Man, I guess we are the last two guys standing from The Ultimate Fighter 1 cast. That's kind of interesting. It's just a testament to how hard we train. I personally feel we both have a lot of fights left in us. He's crazy, is a tough fighter and comes to fight every time he goes out there. I saw his last fight with [Gilbert] Melendez, and that's pretty cool that he's still going out there and giving it his all. I'm the same way, and us still being where we are is a testament to the work ethic we both have.
This sport has definitely changed. From 2004 and 2005 to where we are now, the sport has changed so much. Back then, there were six or seven cards a year. Now, the UFC is having fights every week. You can see the progress of how the UFC has grown from then to now. Then, they had a partnership with Spike that helped them grow the company and bring MMA to the mainstream. Now, they have a new partnership with Fox that is taking everything to the next level. Things have completely changed from when I was first starting out in the UFC and it's only going to get bigger.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.