UFC featherweight Erik “New Breed” Koch (13-1) was scheduled to fight Dustin Poirier this weekend at “UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit”, in what was viewed by many as a number one contenders bout in the featherweight division. Unfortunately, Koch was forced to withdraw from the card due to an undisclosed injury. The injury was disheartening for Koch, but one he believes gave him a much-needed break from competition. Fight Cove caught up with Koch to talk about his injury, who he hopes to fight next, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, working towards a title shot and more.
Mike Bohn: So you were forced off the UFC 143 card with an injury, how are you doing now?
Erik Koch: I’m feeling a lot better, back to hard training and stuff like that, so I’ll be looking, probably will be looking at a May returns here. So couple months and I’ll be back at it.
Mike Bohn: What was your injury if you don’t mind me asking?
Erik Koch: It’s actually undisclosed. I can’t really talk about it.
Mike Bohn: Alright that’s cool. How disappointed were you that you had to pull out of that fight?
Erik Koch: Oh man, I mean, it sucks. I’m having a little bit of a rough time, and you know dealing with the fact of not training, I’ve never took a break from training that long, but you know when I went back for my first hard week at Roufus, I felt, you know really good, felt the best I’ve ever felt, so I think it’s actually a good thing I took a little break, I think I needed it, and just ready to get back at it man.
Mike Bohn: Yeah that’s great. So if he wins is that a fight you still want?
Erik Koch: What now?
Mike Bohn: If Dustin wins at 143 is that a fight you still want?
Erik Koch: Oh definitely, definitely. I mean you know, obviously top contenders, we want to fight each other, we’ve asked for each other a couple times, so definitely, definitely a fight I want.
Mike Bohn: Awesome, well the main reason I’m calling today is I’m doing a series of stories regarding the first loss of their career and how they handled the experience and how they used it to grow, do you mind if I ask you a couple questions about that?
Erik Koch: Yeah that’s fine, that’s fine.
Mike Bohn: Alright, so you lost to Chad Mendes by decision back in March of 2010, what did you know about Chad going into that fight?
Erik Koch: Just going into that fight, obviously he’s a really decorated wrestler, and I knew just from wrestling credentials and, you know, watching his fight that he’s definitely going to be the toughest fight that I’ve had to date, so I definitely knew it was going to be a tough test, and I definitely knew from the get go that he was going to look to get me down, and that was pretty much it, so based off what I knew, I guess it wasn’t enough at that point.
Mike Bohn: What do you think went wrong for you in that fight?
Erik Koch: I think went wrong, is I was just a little too aggressive, you know that’s another fight that I want back, to kind of redeem it. I just think I was a young kid and I got over anxious, you know, I stuffed the first couple take downs, and when I started throwing a lot of heavy heat, that’s when I ended up getting taken down, so I really think it’s my own mistake that got me taken down and controlled on the ground, so I definitely think that it was just, kind of what you were talking about, just a learning experience, I never fought a wrestler that caliber, and after that loss I’ve ripped off four wins, at the time it sucks it was the worst thing in the world, losing, I hate losing. But you know it was probably a good thing. It really made me mature as a fighter and, you know, made me up my game.
Mike Bohn: Yeah, so talk about the emotions you had after that loss, I know you’ve obviously lost in Karate and stuff like that coming up, but how does MMA compare, were you depressed, angry, frustrated?
Erik Koch: Oh yeah, it’s all of it man. I mean, that’s why we do the fight game man, it’s an adrenaline junkie, winning is the greatest thing in the world because your taking such a big risk, and losing is the worst. And I remember when I lost, you know I knew I lost, I knew when the decision was coming I knew I lost, I really didn’t know what to feel at that point, I just felt, to tell you the truth I felt bad for you know, my brother and Duke (Roufus) that were in my corner, I kind of felt like I failed them. And that was kind of the first thing that came to my mind, because I could see they were upset, not at me but, you know, just at the fight. That was the first thing I felt, and then when I actually went back to the locker room, I lost it man. I’ve never cried so hard in my life, and you know it’s something people don’t realize, I mean losing a fight, you know, yeah you live to fight another day, but when you lose a fight, that’s an accumulation of three months of hard training, cutting weight, dieting, and Tito Ortiz used to say it all the time, it’s one of my favourite things, it’s like a loved one dying man. It is, it really is, you put that much time of your life into something for 15 minutes, and when you come up short man it sucks, it’s the worst feeling. So yeah it was very emotional, some of the most emotional I’ve ever got, and I didn’t want to go out obviously, didn’t want to go to after parties, didn’t want to do any of that. I just stayed in my room and waited until it was time to go home the next day and head out. So definitely sucks, but sometimes you have to deal with adversary and deal with the hard times too. You have to deal with the good and the bad.
Mike Bohn: Yeah absolutely. So did you make any changes to your training, or diet, or personal life or anything after that loss?
Erik Koch: The biggest thing is, you know, I was a young kid. I started here in Iowa, and that’s, you know, that’s where I am now and they have a bunch of really good guys, I was super prepared for that fight, but after that fight, not only because of the loss, just because of personal changes that I had to make, I kind of had to get out of my home town atmosphere you know, that’s when I moved to Milwaukee and started training full time with Duke (Roufus) and you know, you can see where the knock outs are coming now, and just my stand up skills are progressing, I’m harder to take down because my stand up is getting better. You know my wrestling has always been good, I don’t think it is my wrestling that got me beat by Chad, I believe it was me being, you know, over confident with my striking and just kind of throwing caution to the wind and throwing stupid punches, throwing stupid kicks. So definitely, I definitely think that was good for me, being more of a student than teaching a lot of people cause that’s what I was doing, it was something I had to do, it was a career choice, and I had to do it, and you know, obviously I’m very happy with the results.
Mike Bohn: Yeah definitely. So has your mental prospective on losing changed since that fight, because I know a lot of undefeated fighter, they say their first lose, their so worried about having that one but then once it passes their whole perspective kind of changes on the situation. Has that happened to you?
Erik Koch: You know, I could see that, you know I only have one loss but you know, it’s something in MMA its such a diverse game and there’s so many good guys now, that you know it’s almost guaranteed to happen. You know, unless you’re a phenom, and we still don’t know he’s got a very long career, but someone like Jon Jones, that I have a very hard time seeing anybody beat him. You know, unless you’re someone like that it’s just going to happen, you’re going to deal with losses. The first one is definitely the hardest one because you’ve never had that feeling, you know, when your undefeated you expect to go in there and win, that’s all you’ve ever known, you know. And then when you do lose, that’s how it hit me, was the shock, I really didn’t know what to think at first, because I knew I lost but not until they announce that I wasn’t the winner and we went back stage, and everybody’s not celebrating, you know that’s not what I’m used to. So when everything is different and everything is little more depressing, it sucks man, and then it settles in, but you know the thing is when you lose a fight, you also never want to lose a fight again. So you’re going to train even harder, you’re going to make the changes you have to make and I think that’s what happened to me, I realized I had to make a change and, you know, now I’m getting some success.
Mike Bohn: Yeah, well you definitely are you’ve been really impressive lately. How has your life changed since moving from the WEC to the UFC?
Erik Koch: It’s good, I’m a simple living type of dude. So you know it really hasn’t change much, you know I come back to my hometown of Cedar Rapids a lot and kick it with family and friends. But I mean its nuts, the crazier thing is, when the WEC transferred over, it was kind of what I expected, I was like well it really doesn’t change for me, it’s cool that I can fight under the UFC banner, but when I was fighting in WEC I was fighting under the UFC banner, also owned by ZUFFA. I was fighting the same guys, you know I’m fighting the best 45 class in the world, and you know, changed over to the UFC nothing changed. Now you’re seeing the change a little bit more because you’re seeing more people from 55 down to 45. It makes the featherweight class a little more deep in that regard. But yeah it’s nuts man, I will never forget when I fought on UFC 128, I think “Shogun” and “Bones” Jones. Just being at the hotel there, having a bunch of fans piled up in the lobby waiting for any fighter to walk by, it’s nuts man, we never experienced that in the WEC. So just experiencing that was nuts man, it’s definitely growing, it’s definitely growing.
Mike Bohn: Yeah that’s awesome. So i wanted to get your thoughts on featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. Did you get to watch his fight a couple weeks ago at UFC 142?
Erik Koch: Oh yeah, oh yeah I was watching.
Mike Bohn: What did you think of his fight with Chad?
Erik Koch: I think man, I’ve said it before, I think Aldo is on another level, and he is a beast man, you know I fight in his division and I’ll say that. Definitely have to respect his game. At the same time, I do, I honestly do believe that no one stylistically matches up with him better than I do. I think if anyone is going to beat him it’s going to be me. There’s really no one in the division I see beating him. I mean, that’s not saying they’re aren’t other really good fighters in the division I’m just saying stylistically, I don’t see anybody having the style to beat him. And I think somebody that fast, bigger, strong, and you know and has knock out power, someone that can put some heat on him, you know. It seems like everybody, everybody’s kind of… you know, he’s got that Anderson thing, he’s got that awe, that shock and awe aura where people are so afraid to engage him, and people are so afraid to throw anything at him, that he ends up timing people and getting off what he wants because people are so afraid of him. And you know, he needs someone to kind of Chael Sonnen him, in a way, you know, I respect the dude but he needs someone that’s going to go in there and give him a fight, you know? And not be afraid. And you know I honestly think I’m the only person with the style that matches up.
Mike Bohn: Yeah, definitely. Well the featherweight division is pretty thin on top contenders right now, there’s no clear-cut number one contender at the moment. How many fights do you think you are away from a title shot?
Erik Koch: I think, well the thing is with my fight back I want it to be a tough fight, I want it to be with another top contender, and that’s kind of what they’re going with, with Dustin (Poirier). I think that fight, and then you know I think the next one should get a shot, you know. I just think, you know, I know “The Korean Zombie”, but still, I still think he needs a couple more fights before he can fight Aldo. And you know, but you also have (Hatsu) Hioki and Bart Palaszewski and we have to see how that fight goes. But I just want to fight any top contender, you know, I just want a title shot before the end of 2012.
Mike Bohn: Yeah for sure. So you’re heading back to Milwaukee in a couple days, or trying too?
Erik Koch: Yep, yep yep, no I am today. I’ve been in my hometown here for a little bit, just trying to get back, ran into some bad weather, and not feeling the greatest right now so, we’ll see how it goes.
Mike Bohn: So I know you’re good buddies with your training partner Anthony Pettis, are you going to help him prepare for his fight at 144 against Joe Lauzon?
Erik Koch: Oh yeah, for sure. He’s looking great too, he’s looking awesome. No joke he has progressed just in the last couple months he’s gotten a lot better, I don’t know what it is, but he has definitely turned a corner, and I think he’ll smash Joe.
Mike Bohn: Yeah that’s awesome. Alright well thanks so much for your time man, I really appreciate it.
Erik Koch: Hey no problem brother, no problem, anytime man.
Mike Bohn: Is there anyone you want to thank before I let you go?
Erik Koch: Yeah man, I thank all my family and friends, my family and friends at Roufusport, all my team mates that help me prepare, and I’d like to thank my dad. I’m actually standing right here with my dad, I always thank him at the end of all my interviews, he’s the reason for my success, so, yeah a big shout out to everybody.
Mike Bohn: Yeah well that’s awesome man, hopefully we can talk to you again before your next fight.
Erik Koch: Yeah for sure man, hit me up, I’m always down.