Combat Corner Professional and UFC Number One Featherweight Contender Erik Koch Talks UFC 153 , Aldo , Brazil and More
Interview by Matt Homeyer
Recently there has been some debate over who was the number one contender for the UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo; some thought it was “The Korean Zombie” while others believed Erik “NewBreed” Koch was. Koch was originally slated to face off against Aldo at UFC 149 in Canada but injuries caused Aldo to withdraw from the bout. With Aldo on the sidelines and no clear number one contender in the featherweight division many wondered if Koch would still get the title shot. Yesterday the UFC announced that in fact “NewBreed” would get his promised title shot but not in Canada, Erik Koch will have to go to war against Aldo on his home turf of Brazil in front of Aldo’s fans this October. I had the opportunity to talk with Koch just hours after the announcement to talk about Aldo, Brazil, and why he is the true number one contender as well as how far he has come.
You started Taekwondo at age 4 and started MMA training before the age of 14, what got you into combat sports and martial arts in general at such a young age? When I was a kid the reason I actually first started was because of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was a huge TMNT fan. I saw an ad in the newspaper my parent had for a Taekwondo school, I asked them if I could do it they said yes and the rest is history.
You dropped out of high school to pursue your career as a mixed martial artist, how did your parents take the new of your decision? And how do they feel about it now that you have been so successful? They hated it when I did it and actually I went thru some hard times personally that I of course bought on myself. They hated the idea that I dropped out and they kicked me out of their house so it was so long to living for free. Now my mom still wishes I would go back to school, my dad is behind me 100% he knows this is what I love to do, he knows I’m good at it. He wants me to pursue this as much as I possibly can.
Since coming into the UFC back in 2011, has it made a big impact on your lifestyle? Yeah totally. I mean for me fight wise nothing really changed because I was fighting in the WEC and it was still the best fighters at my weight class at that time anyway. So fighting really didn’t change but with the UFC you do get a lot more exposure and a lot more recognition. A lot of people know the UFC brand a lot more than they knew the WEC brand. I definitely had to get used to the attention but in the end I think it was good for all the fighters to get a little bit more exposure.
Have you noticed a growth in fans or people taking interest in you since coming into the UFC and now that you are number contender have those numbers grown? Yeah definitely, like I said just the UFC brand has gotten me a lot more attention. When I fight for this title I won’t have had fought for about a year, but I’m definitely expecting after I win this title to win a bunch more fans.
Have people treated you differently now that you are a recognizable member of the sports community especially in Milwaukee and back home? You know not really. I surround myself with people that have been with me the entire ride thru the good and the bad. Some people treat me differently but I have great friends and family who supported me even when I wasn’t fighting in the UFC so I just try and surround myself with the best people possible.
You were supposed to fight Jose Aldo at UFC 149 but the fight was postponed due to Aldo’s injury, Are you bummed that you have to wait now to get your title shot or do you like that you’ll have more time to get ready for the fight? Overall I can see good reasons for both obviously I do get more time to train but I was ready to go. I liked Canada but that’s fine. It just gives me more time to prepare it’s just delaying the inevitable.
With Aldo being such a dominant striker and you are as well, how do you see this fight going? Is it going to be a stand up war till one of you drops or do you think other of your skills will more likely be tested? For me in the fight I just take it wherever, I’m better everywhere and I’ll take the fight wherever it goes I just want to go in there and get the W. I want to stop him. I don’t want to win by decision, I want to stop him.
With a title fight in your near future have you had to do anything out of the ordinary to go out and promote this event that maybe you haven’t had to deal with in the past and does that put any added pressure on you? No, not really. I think most of the time people put pressure on themselves when a big fight comes up. A fight to me is a fight.
How do you feel about fighting Aldo in October in Brazil? Does it make a difference where the fight is to you? A fight is a fight, it doesn’t matter to me where it’s at if it’s in Brazil with a bunch of soccer fans, it doesn’t matter if it’s in Calgary. To me, I’m getting in the cage and I’m fighting someone and that’s going to be the same amount of pressure every time. I love to fight it’s obvious it’s what I love to do, so to me it doesn’t worry me or pressure me in any way. I just want to go out there have fun, do what I’m good at and win that title.
Now that you have a date and location for your title fight how excited are you? And what does headlining a card along with a legend like “Rampage” Jackson mean to you? It’s awesome, it’s one of those things where I just have to step back and look how far I’ve come and what I have yet to do. It’s an honor to be headlining a card like that. I remember watching Tito Ortiz and “Shogun” and those were my idols and seeing how popular they were and just to be on that level of headlining a card this big is awesome it’s a dream come true. It makes me even more excited to fight.
What do you think about Chang Sung Jung “The Korean Zombie” saying he wants Aldo and that he will end Aldo’s reign as champion? Well, I don’t agree. I think that I’m the better match-up, I think that’s a bad match-up for “The Korean Zombie” and I’ll gladly fight him after I take Aldo out.
Some people think that you shouldn’t be the number one contender given the fact that you have no wins over any of the top ten contenders, what do you have to say to people who feel you don’t deserve this title shot and more importantly why do you feel you deserve it? Well, I’m on a four fight winning streak and not only that I’m not getting touched. I’m not getting hit. You know a lot of people like to argue and say that “The Korean Zombie” is the number one contender well I can say the same. He’s got three wins but he also got knocked out in WEC by George Roup. I think that to the fans that want to see a good fight, me and Aldo on paper it’s fireworks it’s going to be a great fight to watch. I’m willing to fight anybody, if people think I’m not deserving, I took the fight when Hioki wouldn’t. There was nobody else who wanted to fight the guy, so I’m the one stepping up to fight the number one dude in the world to say I don’t deserve it I think is kind of dumb.
With your only loss coming by decision back at WEC 47 to Chad “Money” Mendez, Is that a loss that you would want to avenge? Oh definitely, definitely a loss that I want to avenge. I will, just have to wait it will come hopefully after I get this title I can defend it and if Chad is the next one after “The Korean Zombie” we can do that again.
The UFC recently held the fighters summit, what was that like for you to attend and did you find yourself looking around the room for Aldo? I kind of did actually. It was cool I always have a good time at the summit and they always do a good job. Now our insurance is even better, we get pre-existing injuries covered which is awesome. I can’t say how grateful I am for that. But yeah it’s definitely the biggest room full of fighters that you don’t want to mess with.
Recently you had on your Twitter that you had to have your elbow drained, can you shine some light on what happened? About a month ago I thought I had staph, my elbow blew up pretty bad it was about the size of a grapefruit. I took the antibiotics and it went down I went back and trained for a couple weeks and then just this last weekend it blew up again. It swelled up really bad and I went to the doctor, it was bursitis so I had to have it drained. It’s doing better now, just going to try and take it easy for a couple of days so it get backs to 100% that way I can hit it as hard as I can.
Also I noticed that the picture of you on Sherdog.com under your fighter profile is less than flattering, surely being number one contender you can use some of your clout to get them to put a new one up right? Well yeah, I’ll have to go check it out. I think I know which one you’re talking about, I’ll have to get on that.