Join Date: Feb 2007
| | Joe Lauzon Article (good read)
From Snow to Sand, Joe Lauzon’s Excellent Adventure
By Thomas Gerbasi
Success in the UFC can be a life-altering experience, maybe never as much as it’s been for Joe Lauzon. A former network administrator who still went back to his 9 to 5 job after a spectacular
UFC debut in September of 2006, Lauzon has moved from life behind the desk to six weeks inside the reality television bubble as a member of The Ultimate Fighter’s fifth season cast, and then off to Hawaii, where he now trains full-time with UFC lightweight champ BJ Penn.
That’s a long way from trudging through the brutal New England winters the Brockton native lived through for much of his 23 years.
“I get death threats daily,” laughed Lauzon when asked the reaction from back home to his new training home in Hawaii. Not that he softens the blow any to those still digging themselves out of the latest snow storm. “And I’ll be kind of a jerk about it too – I’ll put my away message as “going off to the beach, how’s the weather back home?” even if I’m not going to the beach, because I know they’re getting bombed with snow. But I’ve shoveled my fair share of snow.”
He’s also paid his fair share of dues over his four year pro career, making his bones on the New England scene before he was brought in at UFC 63 in 2006 to be the foil for the return of Jens Pulver to the organization. Lauzon, humble and quiet, didn’t say much before the bout, choosing to let his fighting do the talking.
“I always feel kinda weird talking about myself,” he admitted. “I don’t want to be the guy bragging or talking real highly about myself when it’s not deserved. The worst thing you can do is go and say something you think about yourself that other people don’t. There’s a fine line between being cocky and confident.”
Lauzon and his team had no doubts in his ability though, and 48 seconds after the bell rang at Anaheim’s Arrowhead Pond, neither did Pulver or anyone viewing the fight, as “J-Lau” stopped Pulver in less than a minute.
It was a star-making debut, but Lauzon was back at work the Monday after the fight. And though he could have stuck around in the big show and worked his way up the conventional way, he chose to go on The Ultimate Fighter with 15 other fighters battling to be where he already was at. It was a risky move, but in making it to the semifinals, Lauzon not only got some good work in with his peers, he also got weekly television exposure and he built a relationship with Penn, who invited him to Hawaii to train. Lauzon took Penn up on the offer, and in August of last year, he gave his two weeks notice – he was a full-time fighter now.
“I think I’ve adjusted pretty well,” said Lauzon of life after being a network administrator. “When I was working I always knew what day it was because you’re always looking forward to Friday and it being the last day of work for the week. (Laughs) Now, different days kinda dictate the training schedule, but it’s not nearly as important and I’ll lose track of the days all the time.”
That aside, Lauzon has benefited greatly from his work with ‘The Prodigy’.
“You’ve got someone there who legitimately has the best ground game in the world,” said Lauzon of Penn. “You can argue back and forth about who the best MMA fighters are, pound for pound, but very few people are gonna argue that anyone has a better MMA game than BJ. His positional dominance is second to none, he finishes guys, takes their back, chokes them out, and he’s not just pulling things out of his hat.”
Needless to say, for a fan of Penn like Lauzon was and is, working with him on a daily basis can be a bit of a trip.
“It’s a little bit weird,” he said. “When I think back to a year, year and a half ago, it’s night and day, but I try not to go ‘Super Fan’ on people. (Laughs) When you see someone fighting, it’s almost like he’s a character or a Superhero, but when you actually get to hang out with them, you realize that they’re just like everyone else, they’ve got the same problems and go through the same things as everyone else.”
On the mat though, Penn is not like the rest of the fighters out there, something Lauzon agrees with without hesitation.
“What you’re not seeing from other people is stuff that he’s doing every single day,” he said. “It’s the same game all the time and he does to everyone exactly what he did to (Joe) Stevenson – he gets on top, walks out your legs, you feel helpless, you feel like you don’t know jiu-jitsu, and he does whatever he wants.”
That means some of that is undoubtedly rubbing off on Lauzon, and fans were eager to see what lessons he had learned when he took on Jason Reinhardt at UFC 78 in New Jersey last November. Lauzon, just months removed from quitting his job, was faced with a daunting new reality.
“I was pretty nervous about the fight,” he said. “I usually don’t get that nervous, but it was the first time I put all my eggs in one basket. Until then, I was working and I was training; if I lost a fight, I still had a job. But now I had put everything on hold on this and I had to do well.”
He did, submitting Reinhardt with a rear naked choke in just 74 seconds. Then he was able to breathe a little bit easier.
“If it didn’t go exactly like that, I would have been more concerned.”
With three UFC wins under his belt though and an overall six fight winning streak to protect, things aren’t going to get easier; in fact, they’ve been amped up again as Lauzon prepares to headline what may very well be the greatest UFC card ever on April 2nd in Colorado when he takes on fellow New Englander and former world title challenger Kenny Florian.
“I feel pretty honored,” said Lauzon of the headlining gig. “There are so many great guys on that card, and for whatever reason, they chose me and Kenny to headline it. I agree that it’s the best card ever seen from start to finish, but for me it’s kinda weird because looking at The Ultimate Fighter alone, Manny (Gamburyan) beat me in the semis, he’s below me, Nate Diaz beat Manny in the finals and won the show, and he’s below me, so I don’t think it’s necessarily me that’s headlining as much as the two guys from Boston who were on The Ultimate Fighter. But it’s cool to be there regardless of whatever reason I’m there.”
Two Boston guys fighting a local turf war in Colorado? Go figure, but regardless of logistics, Lauzon knows that a win over Florian will propel him up the ranks even further than the win over Pulver did. That’s an interesting situation given that Penn is the man on top of the lightweight heap right now, but Lauzon doesn’t see that being an issue.
“I don’t really want to be thinking that far ahead, but I don’t think BJ’s gonna hang around ’55 very long,” he said. “I think 100 percent that he’s gonna beat (Sean) Sherk (at UFC 84 in May), and then whether he fights one more time or he just goes up, I think he’s going after (Georges) St-Pierre at 170. Regardless of whether St-Pierre wins or loses (against Matt Serra in April), he wants St-Pierre.
What about you Joe?
“I’m ready for whatever comes,” he said. “I’ve said for a long time that I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m thinking long-term. Say I get a title shot and the worst-case scenario is that I lose – even if that happens soon, that will benefit me down the line. I’m not thinking that I have to win the title at 23, 24 years old and keep it forever. I’m looking at the big picture and if I’m gonna get better by losing a title shot now and then fighting for it later, I’m cool with that. No one in this sport is undefeated and I’ve won my last couple of fights in the UFC, but everyone loses so I’m looking at everything as a learning experience. Whether you win or lose, some lessons are tougher than others, but I’ll be ready for whatever.”
"I’m ready. It doesn’t matter with who or where. On foot or on horseback. With maces or poleaxes. To fight. To first blood or to death. It doesn’t matter, I’m ready to fight. "