Erik Koch Aiming For Knockout Against Jonathan Brookins

Erik Koch

Prospect planning to make the most of fight with Ultimate Fighter winner

In a way, Erik Koch should be thankful for Cub Swanson’s bad luck when it comes to injuries..

He’s twice been scheduled to meet the Greg Jackson-trained featherweight, and both times, the bout has been called off. The first instance gave Koch a chance to replace Manny Gamburyan opposite Raphael Assuncao at UFC 128, a bout that produced a victory and a Knockout of the Night bonus.

Saturday night, he steps into the cage for his second altered fight, a meeting with TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins on the main card of UFC Fight Night 25: Battle on the Bayou. The pairing puts Koch on the main card of a UFC event for the first time, and was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.

“When they asked me about it, I said, `Definitely,'” recalled Koch, speaking with Heavy MMA prior to departing for New Orleans. “With it being on the main card, getting the exposure that I want, and just with Jonathan Brookins being a tough guy. With him coming off winning the finale on The Ultimate Fighter, I kind of want to steal some of that shine.”

With the second fight with Swanson being cancelled late, Koch had already prepared for the bout. After it was called off, he returned to the gym and started preparing for this bout. Going through consecutive training camps might bring up worries of over-training, but the Roufusport product isn’t concerned about it.

“No, I feel good. A lot of people think I do over-train because I’m a gym rat, but that’s how I’ve always done it. My philosophy is that I’d rather be uncomfortable in the gym, train hard and suffer there. When it comes to fight time, I’m ready to go. It’s been good; it’s been a long, fun training camp.

“I’m just really pumped for [this fight]. I was pumped for it when they first offered it to me, and I’ve been through pretty much two training camps for this fight, so I’m definitely ready to go. It’s also cool because I get to start off the first wave of our entire team; we all have fights in fall here. Everybody is in training camp, everybody is training hard. Me, Serge (Sergio Pettis), Anthony’s brother, and Alan (Belcher) all get to set it off right.”

The collection of talent assembled Duke Roufus’ gym has been delivering highly entertaining fights and making a name for themselves over the last few years, and Koch is very much a part of it all.

At just 22-years-old, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native has already amassed a 12-1 record, climbing into the top 15 of the featherweight division, and brings a three-fight winning streak with him into the cage on Saturday night. All three victories were first round finishes, the latter two both earning Knockout of the Night honors.

Koch attributes a great deal of that success to Roufus and the coaching staff, as well as the family atmosphere they have fostered in Milwaukee.

“We’ve got Jo Z, who is Alan’s jiu-jitsu coach. He’s a black belt and one of the best guys I’ve ever rolled with. We’ve got him, and Ben Askren is up here training. We’ve got a bunch of people up here so it’s just fun, just learning off each other, and everybody going through hell and back together for their fights coming up.

“A lot people think you can just get a bunch of good guys and have a good team. What’s good (here) is that they all work good together. They all listen, they all tend to incorporate things; one technique will help another. That’s the biggest thing, having fun with it, because you learn a lot faster when you’re having fun. It’s definitely just a cool, fun atmosphere. All these coaches are very cool guys in and outside of the gym, so that makes it easier.

“I also want to throw in Coach Cushman who is the boxing coach up here. It’s the same thing with him and Duke; their styles are very similar. I can go work with either one of them and it works with what they’re both trying to get me to learn. My last two fights, both game plans going in, that’s exactly how it ended to a tee. It just shows the guy knows what he’s talking about.

“Another thing about Duke and Coach Cushman, these guys are in there every day. They love what they do. They eat, sleep, and come to the gym and teach us a bunch of stuff. We’re just fortunate to have the coaches that we have. I couldn’t be happier. I’m going through hell and back—I’m cutting weight, training hard for a fight, but I’m still having fun, and to me that’s awesome. There are a lot of people who can tell you they don’t have fun at their job, but I love my job and I love what I do.”

The next time he goes to work, Koch will be standing across the cage from Brookins. Though he’s been besieged with injuries since winning Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter last December, Koch is expecting nothing short of a battle on Saturday night.

“Pretty much with fights, I have a small game plan, but I’m there to fight. Wherever the fight goes, I’ll fight and I’ll win there. That’s been my motto, that’s what I’ve always tried to fight by. One of my favorite fighters is Nick Diaz; he’s fight you anywhere.

“Brookins is a good dude, he’s a tough dude; he can give a beating and he can take one. It’s one of those things who wants it more? Obviously, I want to keep it standing; that’s what the fans want to see and that’s what I like to do. But if it goes to the ground, I’m not worried about it. I think I’m as good on the ground as I am standing; I’m completely comfortable there. If it goes there, I welcome it. We’re just going to have to see September 17.

“Most of my wins are by submission,” continued Koch in his analysis of his upcoming fight. “I don’t think he’s fought anybody that is as good as me on the ground. It’s one of those things where people can look and read how it is on paper, but that’s fine; you really don’t know until fight day. That’s all I’m waiting for, man; that’s the end of days for me. We’ll both put it all on the line that day.”

As far as predictions, Koch offers the same one before every bout.

“First round knockout; that’s what it is every single time. There’s so many ways (I do do it), I can’t tell you how (it will happen).. I’m just predicting a first round knockout.”

Like Koch said himself, we’re just going to have to see on Saturday.

For the complete interview with Erik Koch, check out the latest episode of The Next Big Thing podcast.