Koscheck kicks AKA to curb, plans Fresno MMA team

Business partners Josh Koscheck and Jason Kraft are rebranding their two American Kickboxing Academy gyms in Fresno to Dethrone Base Camp.  Business partners Josh Koscheck and Jason Kraft are rebranding their two American Kickboxing Academy gyms in Fresno to Dethrone Base Camp. This year marks a new beginning for Fresno’s most prestigious resident mixed martial artist Josh Koscheck.

Along with business partner Jason Kraft, Koscheck is rebranding his two local gyms to reflect a new Fresno-centric focus with plans to assemble a professional fight team based right here.

The duo opened American Kickboxing Academy-Fresno three years ago and added a second location in 2010. Now both of their Fresno training centers will be known as Dethrone Base Camp Fresno, with an official affiliation with MMA apparel line Dethrone Royalty.

Koscheck — a former NCAA wrestling champion and top-ranked MMA fighter — used to train at American Kickboxing Academy’s facility in San Jose, but will now train in Fresno at his own gym. He also plans to recruit a fight team with a roster of athletes from across the country expected to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship — the premier promotion company of the MMA world that recently inked a reported $100 million broadcast agreement with FOX.

The strategy represents a shift in operations for Fresno’s two gyms.

“That’s an area that we really haven’t been strong in over the past couple years,” Kraft said. “We focused more on providing the best classes and environment for our everyday members. Building a pro team wasn’t a priority because Kos was doing his fight camps in San Jose.”

Koscheck understands he will carry the responsibility of being the face of the team.

“It starts with me, and it starts with the other guys involved, and it will slowly get built,” Koscheck said.

The majority of the team members will be from outside of the Valley, but one of the local fighters who will be on the roster will be Nick Bustamante. 

In the post-fight press conference following Koscheck’s victory over Mike Pierce at UFC 143, the welterweight announced he would be leaving American Kickboxing Academy and would no longer train in San Jose. 

He later revealed, in an exclusive interview with MMAweekly.com, that personal differences with AKA founder and lead trainer Javier Mendez were the reason for the departure.

For eight years Koscheck would drive to San Jose, train there Monday through Friday, and drive back to Fresno on the weekends.

“This is my neighborhood, this is my community, so it’s nice to be able to stay here and train,” Koscheck said. “To sleep in my own bed at night is a dream come true.”

Kraft acknowledged the income from the pro team itself would be minimal at best, but it would give the training center an added level of credibility and exposure.

“The guys coming in and training come in for an hour or two hours. They get to do Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu, and then they see Kos come in working pads, and you hear that snap, you hear that pop,” Kraft said. “They’re like, ‘Whoa what is that?’ That’s what it is when you see a top-level athlete doing his craft.”

The gym members will also benefit from the top-notch training staff the pro team will bring with it.

Some of the new coaching staff will include renowned striking coach Tom Semore, former NCAA champion wrestler Alan Fried and Muay Thai expert Jasper Tayaba.

“You’re going to see a lot of improvements in the structure of our classes,” Koscheck said.

There was some apprehension as the duo broke away from AKA, but that was eased by the affiliation with Dethrone. The partnership also marks a new venture for the clothing company, as the Fresno locations will also be the first Dethrone Base Camps in the country.

Dethrone founder Nick Swinmurn had been looking for the right opportunity to open a gym for a while, Kraft said.

“He already had the brand and he already had the idea, and we had already built this thing, so there really wasn’t much of a financial investment for him to make,” Kraft said.

Although not officially associated with the new venture, local fight promoter Rick Mirigian said having a pro fight team in town will dramatically increase the quality of the events that come to Fresno.

Mirigian has worked with Kraft and Koscheck in the past and would welcome the opportunity to work with them again.

“It’d be hard for any promoter of any size that’s trying to put on a fight to ignore that camp,” Mirigian said.