After taking some time off after my last fight with B.J. Penn at UFC 123 in November, I realized that there was no question that I was going to continue fighting. I wasn’t going to go out on a loss, and while I would have loved to have gotten BJ into the second round and been able to wear on him a little bit in our fight, it just didn’t happen. That’s how it goes sometimes in fighting.
So after spending time with my family, helping BJ prepare for his fight with Jon Fitch at UFC 127 (more on that later) and working on the Outdoor Channel show I host, Trophy Hunters TV, I was waiting for the phone call from the UFC. A few months back, the call came.
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva called and he asked about a fight with Diego Sanchez, and I had a few questions for him. I asked if he went to Diego yet, and he hadn’t, so I said ‘Joe, give me 24 hours, I want to talk to my coaches and my wife.’ I filled my wife in on what was going on. Then I talked to my coaches, and they were all thumbs up for it. So I called Joe back in probably four, five hours and said I’m up for it. I approved of everything -- Diego, Denver, the date -- it all worked out for me.
Of course, being in a combat sport, things are always subject to change, so on Monday, Dana called me and said Diego’s out and we’re looking at replacing him with Fitch or Josh Koscheck. I was actually on a plane and couldn’t talk for very long and I said either one will be fine. I hang up, take my flight, and we had a layover to Salt Lake City. During the layover, I spoke to Dana and he said he’ll know more at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Tuesday comes, Dana calls, and it’s Koscheck.
Overall, Josh is a lot different than Diego, but in a few ways he’s a lot like him. Of course for two months now, I’ve been training for a southpaw and Josh is a conventional fighter. I’ve also been training for someone who didn’t have the wrestling credentials I did and now I’m facing somebody who’s got better wrestling credentials than I had. But I do have to say I like it that it’s two and a half weeks out and he’s now taking the fight, where I’ve been training for three months when it comes fight time.
My coaches are doing a lot of tape-watching right now and figuring out what the game plan is gonna be, and by all means, it’s gonna be a fair fight, as he’s got enough time to prepare for me as I’ve got to prepare for him.
And though changing an opponent can always throw a wrench into things, I’ve been having a great camp so far, and it all started back when I first accepted the fight with Diego. Once I got that fight, the first order of business was to get a training camp together, and I decided that for the majority of camp, I wanted to stay close to home in Hillsboro, Ill. I also wanted a little privacy, so I went my old high school and asked if I could use the small gym. They’ve already got the mats there, and I went there and had my privacy. I let a few good friends in to watch, but for the most part I didn’t want people around. So we did all our training in Hillsboro, and it was a great environment and I controlled everything as far as who walked in the door and who was there, the lighting, the temperature, and it was just perfect for us.
It was great being back in that gym. I would have trained there a little bit as a coach, doing some volunteer coaching for the wrestling team, but my last real hard training session there was 19 years ago, when I was on the high school wrestling team.
I couldn’t think about the good old days too much, though, because there was work to do. And for a big fight like this, I had to bring in some big guns to get ready.