Former top welterweight contender Josh Koscheck has never expressed having any regrets about his decision to part ways earlier this year with American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
Instead, he says he's happy with the decision, especially when reflecting on his welterweight title bout with Georges St. Pierre.
Koscheck went five rounds with the champion during their rematch on Dec. 11, 2010, at UFC 124 in Montreal. The two met in August 2007 at UFC 74 -- Koscheck also lost that fight by unanimous decision.
But going the distance a second time with St. Pierre was the only thing Koscheck could take pride in 2010.
He’s won two fights since facing St. Pierre, but that rematch loss remains fresh in Koscheck’s mind. It serves as a constant reminder why leaving AKA was best for him. St. Pierre put a brutal beating on Koscheck. The assault left Koscheck with a broken orbital bone that sidelined him for nearly a year.
A left jab that St. Pierre landed repeatedly on the right side of Koscheck’s face did the damage. It was a punch that Koscheck neither knew how to throw nor defend against.
“I had no clue because I didn’t have anybody to show me the proper techniques,” Koscheck told ESPN.com recently. “Now I have a guy who breaks it down real simple. I’ve gained two years’ worth of knowledge in a few months.”
That guy is boxing coach Tom Semore. With Semore showing him how to throw and slip punches, Koscheck’s confidence has soared.
The welterweight contender, who’s already possesses solid wrestling and Muay Thai skills, now has a well-rounded enough stand-up game to truly become UFC champion.
“I’ve been fighting in UFC for eight years, and I don’t think I knew how to throw a jab correctly until a few months ago,” Koscheck said. “That’s the difference. It’s the techniques I’m learning, learning how to throw a proper punch.
“My speed has improved; I’m faster. I’ve only been working with Tom Semore a few months and I’ve made great improvement.”
At least twice a week, Semore forces Koscheck to slip punches and throw counter shots. There is no brawling during these sessions, something Koscheck willingly did in previous Octagon appearances.
He often got away with slugging it out because most of his opponents also lacked proper boxing skills. St. Pierre was not among them -- and Koscheck paid a heavy price.
But with Semore calling the shots, Koscheck no longer stands in front of his sparring partners throwing wild punches and leaving himself open defensively.
“What I’ve tried to do is give him more tools to use and then he has to be the one to choose it,” Semore told ESPN.com. “People like to talk about his big right hand. Well, right now Josh has power in all of his punches.
“He’s gotten a lot better in every way. His uppercut is great. His left hook is better; everything he does now is much better.”
Semore is a stickler for constant movement -- both head and feet. Koscheck is never allowed to remain stationary, whether on defense or offense.
At Koscheck-owned Dethrone Base Camp gyms in Fresno, Calif., nonstop movement is a high priority. He and his business partner Jason Kraft renamed their two gyms, which were formally called AKA-Fresno.
During the brief time with Semore as his boxing coach, Koscheck has tightened all aspects of his defense. He’s always had solid takedown defense, now punches and kicks penetrate his guard less frequently.
“Josh has some of the best foot movement in MMA,” Semore said. “Josh is great when he moves. I have to just keep him moving.
“I’m in the process of refining all of his moves. Right now I couldn’t be more pleased with his progress.”
While Koscheck is just in the beginning stages under Semore’s tutelage, the coach has seen enough to feel extremely confident that his fighter will leave the Octagon victorious Saturday night in East Rutherford, N.J.
Semore has seen enough of Johny Hendricks, who will face Koscheck in the UFC on Fox 3 co-main event, to confidently predict his guy will be just fine on fight night.
He’s so confident Koscheck will beat Hendricks that Semore isn’t shy about talking St. Pierre.
“Hendricks’ punches are sloppy and unorthodox, and I’m not saying that just because of my friendship with Josh,” Semore said. “Johny has a lot of weaknesses; he’ll have difficulty with Josh.
“And if I’d been with Josh, I don’t think St. Pierre would have beaten him. I guarantee that when Josh fights him again that jab will be neutralized.
“Trust me, it will be neutralized. He will never out-strike Josh again. I see all of St. Pierre’s weaknesses.”