In every sport there are athletes that people love to hate. This seems to reign especially true in combat sports. Whether it’s boos at weigh-ins, people who purchase pay-per-views just hoping to watch you lose or haters on Twitter, the reception these “heels” receive is rarely a positive one. Some guys set themselves up in this role and put on an act in order to fulfill it; for others, the role falls in their lap whether they like it or not.

With Brock Lesnar back in the WWE, there may be no one MMA fans love to hate more than UFC welterweight Josh Koscheck.

Sure, “Kos” handles the role well. He encourages fans when they boo, he tells the hockey-crazed city of Montreal that his Penguins are going to destroy the hometown Canadiens in the playoffs, and he spent a season coaching opposite fan-favorite Georges St-Pierre on The Ultimate Fighter, playing pranks and talking circles around the champ. But at the end of the day, is the Dethrone Base Camp owner and fighter really a bad guy?

The answer is no. In fact, Josh Koscheck may be the most overlooked and under-appreciated fighter in the promotion.

Fans were introduced to Koscheck on season one of TUF. As a NCAA Division I National Champion and All-American, the Pennsylvania native obviously had a great wrestling pedigree, but was the most inexperienced member of arguably the best cast in TUF history. Having only two fights before being cast, it’s safe to say he was one-dimensional.

In his first fight in the house, he earned a unanimous decision victory over a significantly more experienced Chris Leben. In the semi-finals, the Edinboro University alum dropped a split decision to eventual TUF 1 champ Diego Sanchez.

What may be more impressive than his in-fight performances was his pure athletic ability. If you remember back to the first season, the teams regularly participated in non-fight related challenges. Koscheck was always the top performer, regardless of the task at hand.

As years have gone by,  Koscheck has used that athletic ability to transform into one of the most well-rounded fighters in MMA. In his 20-fight UFC career, “Kos” has 15 victories, five by way of knockout and four via submission with the rest coming by decision. As far as his losses go, the man who was once known solely as a wrestler has only been knocked out once and submitted once. His opponents have gone on record as saying he punches harder than just about anyone in the division. Not a bad resume for someone who rarely gets any credit.

If one needs more convincing as to his value to the promotion, look no further than his fight with Matt Hughes at UFC 135. The fight was Koscheck’s first in almost a year after suffering a serious eye injury. He took the fight on 19 days’ notice, and needed less than one round to knock out a UFC Hall of Famer. Hughes has only been knocked out five times in his 54 fight career.

Koscheck is always the first to step up on short notice and take fights. When St-Pierre was injured and had to pull out of his UFC 137 match-up with Carlos Condit, Koscheck wasted no time offering up his services—just a month after the Hughes fight—to replace the injured champ. He’s always had that “I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality, something that shouldn’t be overlooked within the promotion.

In addition to his UFC-record 20 Octagon appearances since 2005, Koscheck also has five “of the night” bonuses to his credit. In a sport where wrestlers take a lot of flak for putting on boring fights, Koscheck shows up every night.

Away from the spotlight of PPV glory, Koscheck is one of the hardest workers out there. I trained at the same gym as “Kos.” I saw a side to him that the masses don’t see. I saw the guy who drove two-plus hours to train with the best of the best, the guy who put on his gi and rolled with us common folk, the guy who showed up every day, twice a day and put himself through workouts like I’d never seen before. Airdyne workouts that would leave most gasping for air and motionless, he made look like a leisurely stroll in the park.

Koscheck was all business all the time and there’s no doubt that work ethic rubbed off on those around him. Jon Fitch gets a lot of credit for being the captain of the American Kickboxing Academy fight team and Cain Velasquez for being the camp’s first UFC champion. Often times flying under the radar was the guy who helped put the gym on the map.

So, the next time you choose to boo Koscheck, ask yourself when was the last time your favorite fighter knocked out a Hall of Famer in less than five minutes. If you still find yourself wanting to boo a guy that has accomplished more as an athlete than most could dream, walk a mile in his shoes.

He owns two successful gyms in Fresno, Calif. He’s part owner of Dethrone Royalty Brand clothing. He’s a NCAA champion. He flies planes. He drives a Ferrari. He may just be the most underrated man in MMA—deal with it.

Photo: Josh Koscheck (Sherdog)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.