Last year, Koch couldn’t compete at all because of injuries he’d sustained. In 2o12, the biggest hit he took was having to withdraw from a title bout against Jose Aldo that was scheduled for UFC 153. Sixteen months have passed since he last stepped in the Octagon, and Koch is back to stake his claim in the 145-lb division.
“It’s been a hell of year, full of ups and downs. Some of the biggest ups and some of the biggest downs that I’ve ever been through. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster, even without fighting. It’s just one of those things,” Koch said. “It sucked that I had to give up the title shot. It hurt for awhile, but now I’m just focused and more than anything, I just want to get back in the cage.”
Koch’s last bout was in September 2011 where he defeated TUF season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins via unanimous decision. With only one blemish on his pro MMA record, a loss to Chad Mendes at WEC 47, Koch still believes a win will put him next in line to battle the winner of Aldo vs. Edgar.
“Just where Lamas stands right now with a win over Swanson and a win over Hioki, who was number two at the time, I feel this is definitely a title eliminator. Nothing is set in stone, but I definitely think it is. The title thing, it’s whatever man,” Koch stated. “I got to get past Ricardo Lamas, I’m not even thinking about it. It’s one of those things, it’ll come up when it comes up. Right now, I’m just itching to get back in the cage and fight, that’s all I want to do.”
Both men fought in the WEC prior to it merging with the UFC, but never faced each other within their former promotion. The 24-year-old Duke Roufus trained fighter works out with some of the best on a daily basis and thinks he has what it takes to end Lamas’ undefeated streak in the UFC.
“I’m the most dynamic guy he’s ever fought. I think the biggest thing he gives people problems with is he’s a big, strong featherweight. He’s just really physical and real strong, and I don’t think he’s fought anybody like me. I just think he’s a great fighter, I don’t think he’s bad in any area. Honestly, I think I can take it anywhere, and I’m definitely looking for a finish,” Koch said. “He’s a big featherweight and so am I, it’ll be clash of the titans here.”
“There’s nothing like getting a knockout, but my ground game is underrated too. Anytime I get on the mat, I get submissions,” Koch said. Additionally, Roufusport has Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben Askren among their ranks now which has aided “New Breed” in improving his wrestling. When Koch lost to Mendes in the WEC, he was kept on the ground, controlled by Mendes, and unable to implement his own game plan. Koch insisted that won’t be the case anymore.
“I’m not even the same fighter from when I fought Mendes – stand-up and on the ground. And like you said, adding Ben in, my game has gotten so much better. If [Lamas] does try to ‘Mendes’ me, take me down and control me, it’s not going to happen.”