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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
After a very close split decision win over Mike Pierce at UFC 143 on Saturday night, Josh Koscheck revealed that he had left his longtime team at the American Kickboxing Academy. That led many to believe that a fight between Koscheck and longtime teammate - and perennial top welterweight - Jon Fitch might be a possibility.
However, in a new interview with MMAWeekly.com, Koscheck opened up about his reason for leaving AKA, and made it clear there's no rift between he and his training partners themselves.
"First and foremost, my teammates over there at AKA in San Jose are my brothers," Koscheck said. "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."
"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."
Turns out, there is really only one thing - actually, one person - that has caused Koscheck to sever ties with AKA itself.
"There's one reason I'm leaving San Jose AKA and that's because of Javier Mendez," Koscheck said. "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."
Koscheck said his issues with Mendes - who founded AKA and is one of the head trainers at the gym - go back all the way to 2008, and a fight he took with Thiago Alves on short notice. He said Mendes' interviews after the fight, where he laid blame on Koscheck for not following the gameplan, were the first sign to him that something wasn't right. But it wasn't just that one instance, and it led Koscheck to grow increasingly frustrated.
"I've lost a lost of respect for Javier Mendez as a coach, as a person," Koscheck said. "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."
Koscheck is still working with Dave Camarillo, as well as Bob Cook, and made it clear his only issue is with Mendes himself.
"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," Koscheck said. "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."
"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."
Ultimately, Koscheck says the only thing that's going to change for him is the location of his training. He will continue working with his teammates, and several of the same trainers, but it will be at his gym in Fresno.
As he said, "I'm still going to train with them, but I will never step foot in AKA in San Jose again."
Penick's Analysis: Fighters put a lot of faith into their trainers, believing their best interests are being looked after in their careers, and sometimes that doesn't wind up being the case. Clearly Koscheck felt that was the case in this situation, and it has caused a contentious transition. For a lot of fans it will come as a disappointment that it's only the one person causing the split, because the prospects of former teammates fighting always gets people interested, but here it's just Koscheck trying to do what he feels is best for him.
[Josh Koscheck art by Cory Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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