Yes, I knew Josh Koscheck was a durable fighter after the two of us had battled hard inside the octagon for three full rounds at UFC Fight Night on the Miramar base a few years back. But it wasn’t until the final bell sounded to end his fight this weekend versus one of the best mixed martial artists in the world, Georges St. Pierre, that we all got to witness just how tough he really is.
It’s unfortunate that many fans will never acknowledge that fact. Perhaps they can’t stand Koscheck’s persona or dislike his fighting style, but I think it’s mainly because they have absolutely no idea of what Josh went through during his last four rounds against the UFC welterweight champion of the world. Just imagine the struggle he faced as he glanced up at the video screen to check out his damaged eye, or the jolting way he’d snap his head away from the ice bag that was being pressed against his fractured face between rounds to reduce swelling.
How could a fan understand?
Only one way: If they too have had their orbital bone broken at some point in their life. Could you have pushed on for twenty more minutes of fighting with one functional eye and the fear of permanent eye damage? I highly doubt it.
True, I don’t know what was going on in Koscheck’s mind or how bad his symptoms were during the fight, but I can tell you that the time that I had my orbit bone cracked was the most frightening moment of my entire life.
It happened to me long before my mixed martial arts career began, back when I was a teenager…
As they called my name to step up onto the main stage, my mind became flooded with countless thoughts. The tension increased with every step I took up the small staircase that lead to the fighting area. There were many eyes focused on my opponent and I as we lined up face to each other in the final match of the NBL’s –National Black Belt League– middleweight sparring division. The winner would be declared the NBL’s world champ for that year.
The referee started the match and we attacked each other immediately. After a minute of action, I had landed several punches and my opponent had scored some well timed kicks. Looking up at the scoreboard, I noticed that I was behind quite a few points –kicks were worth twice as much as punches at this tournament– with thirty seconds remaining in the match.
With time running out, I attacked quickly trying to even the score, but halfway into my movement I was struck by another kick. It wasn’t a overly powerful strike, but the moment it landed I knew something was wrong. Instantly my vision doubled, which was not an uncommon occurrence after taking a hard smack in the head. What disturbed me was the fact that I was unable to judge distance and I was having a lot of trouble determining where my opponent was positioned in front of me. So as to not risk even more serious injury, I opted to bow out of the match. At the time I was very disappointed in myself for having done so, but looking back now, I’m very glad I made that choice.
Thinking my vision would soon correct itself, I decided to rest, spending the night in my hotel room. After a few hours I had noticed no improvement. At that point, I was getting a little scared. Scratch that. I was terrified that the kick had permanently damaged my eyes! I ended up falling asleep after sending a few prayers to the man upstairs, with the hopes that I would wake up feeling normal again. Three hours later –around 2 a.m.– I awoke, panic setting in as I realized my vision was still messed up.
Sitting up out of bed, I made my way toward the other bed in our hotel room where my teammate’s father, Paul, was lying fast asleep. I hesitated for a few minutes, standing quietly in the middle of the dark room as I assessed the situation. We had such a long weekend and I really didn’t want to wake Paul up in the middle of the night.
Should I go back to sleep? I thought to myself, my mind holding on to a glimmer of hope that my vision would correct itself in time.
Reluctantly, I reached down and moved my hand toward the sleeping man’s shoulder not fully sure of where it actually was. This uncertainty was due to both the darkness of the room and my distorted vision. Feeling my hand touch his shoulder, Paul woke up, somewhat startled. Ten minutes later we were in his car headed towards the Georgetown University Hospital emergency department.
We ended up sitting in emergency for a very long time. I had heard that Washington, D.C., was a rough, violent city from many of the locals and some of the tourists. The screams and moans I could hear ringing throughout the halls while we waited did nothing to discredit those statements. Paul kept my mind busy by joking around and keeping our talk steady and interesting. Finally, after a few hours of waiting, we were called in to see the doctor.
The doctor was an eye specialist and it turned out, lucky for us, that Georgetown University was one of the best places in the entire United States for eye injury treatment. I must admit, hearing that information calmed me slightly during such a scary time.
I underwent a bunch of X-rays and several other eye tests before Paul and I were left to wait a while longer. The doctor, who was a great guy, returned with some good news. It turned out that I had cracked my orbital bone and my eye wasn’t tracking properly due to a muscle that was getting caught up in the fracture. The best news came when he said that my vision should return to normal without treatment if given more time. We headed back to the hotel and I must say I was so glad that I had woken up Paul.
Just as the doctor had optimistically informed me, a week or two later, my vision did begin to improve. I remember one morning feeling a popping sensation in my upper cheek when I smiled and after that things gradually returned to normal. I had promised myself that I would never fight again if my vision normalized, but that promise turned out to be very hard to fulfill…
In the end, I wrote this article to share with you my personal take on the injury and the effort that I saw Koscheck give last Saturday to complete all five rounds of action. Fighting GSP with two eyes is a tough challenge; fighting him with one eye is impossible.
I’ll say it one more time, Josh Koscheck is tough. In my opinion, that cannot be questioned.
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