UFC 153: Erik Koch Unafraid of Jose Aldo, Expects to Bring Title Back to Milwaukee
By Paul Fladten of US Combat Sports
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo's resume reads like a who's who of the 145-pound division. Urijah Faber, Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes, Mike Brown, Mark Hominick and Manny Gamburyan are just some of the opponents that line Aldo's hit list.
But don't think that Aldo's past dominance scares number one contender Erik Koch in the least. Set to square off against the champion in enemy territory at UFC 153 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, "New Breed" fully expects to return back home in October with a shiny new belt.
"He's a dominant champion for a reason, I just think I'm the guy to take him out," Koch told Paul Fladten of US Combat Sports. "I think he hasn't fought anybody like me. He hasn't fought somebody that's not afraid to stand with him and I think that's what makes it a very interesting fight."
For Aldo, who has emerged as one of the pound-for-pound greatest strikers in MMA history, highlight reel finishes are nothing new. From the 18-second head kick knockout to begin his career to his most recent stoppage of Chad Mendes at UFC 142, a Mike Tyson-like aura has been steadily building around him. But Koch isn't backing down.
"You've seen him (Aldo) demolish people but it seems like everyone's afraid of him. They're afraid to engage and I say people more try to survive against Aldo than they try to actually finish him. It's one of those things where we're both finishers and we both like to go get the knockout, so it's definitely going to be a different fight than he's used to."
Showcasing a solid submission game in his time before making the move to Roufusport, Koch has since developed a dangerous striking game alongside teammates like Anthony Pettis and Chico Camus. His most impressive finishes came against Francisco Rivera at WEC 52 and Rapahel Assuncao at UFC 128. Now "New Breed" is ready to shock the world with a stoppage of Aldo.
"I want to stop it in the second or third. I want to stop it [and] I don't want it to go to decision. I'll take any round stoppage, we'll say that, we're not going to get too picky."
Training Like Brothers and with Brothers
While the casual fan may not know as much about Koch as some of Aldo's past opponents, "New Breed" has been around for a while. Despite still being just 23 years old, Koch has been a lifelong fighter after beginning his training at the age of 10 in his brother Keoni's basement in Iowa.
"I'm strong everywhere. A lot of people don't know I've been in this game since I was ten years old as a little kid. People think I'm young and I still need a little more experience and I'm gonna gain that experience, but I've been doing this since I was ten years old, I've been doing this for a long time. So, it's my time. I'm ready to get in there and I'm ready to become champ. This is what I've been working my entire life for."
Now training fulltime in Milwaukee, Koch said he can still remember back to high school "like it was yesterday" when he would rush home to train alongside his brother. Marked with a tattoo on his arm that symbolizes Hard Drive MMA, the featherweight contender never shies away from explaining the significance that his brother has had on his career.
But while his brother's gym may be a little more than four hours to the west, Koch has found another family in his Roufusport teammates. From his former roommate and fellow UFC title contender "Showtime" Pettis to his current roommate and fellow Iowan Mike "Biggie" Rhodes, Koch has been a key ingredient to the Spartan formula.
"Even when people don't have fights coming up everybody's in the gym, everybody's pushing each other, everybody's here to help. That's our biggest thing...all of our fighters care about each other. We all want to win as a whole. We're not only worried about our fights. I'm worried about Biggie's fight too. I want him to succeed so we're going to push him and make sure that he does that."
With the biggest fight of his career set to take place in less than two months well over 5,000 miles away from his family – blood related and non-blood related – Koch personifies the types of opportunity that can come to a gym rat who never stops working. His title fight against Aldo is one fans should not miss.
"You should buy this pay-per-view because you got two of the most exciting strikers that are knockout artists fighting each other. And I've never seen a fight like that be a boring fight. So check it out on October 13."
Check out the full video interview at the link below.