The first time the UFC held an event at the TD Garden five years ago, hometown favorite Joe Lauzon couldn’t hear his corner. Despite the fact that they were screaming at him from just 3 inches away, the cheers and crowd noise was that deafening. He sold 600 tickets and everyone he knew came in representing, wearing shamrock green shirts Lauzon had made up for them.
At UFC 118, Joe took on a castmate from TUF season 5, the infamous Gabe Ruediger, who had brought Lauzon a cake that read “Sorry for your loss” at the weigh-ins. Lauzon proceeded to decimate Ruediger, submitting him via armbar and earning a bonus for his performance in the process.
When UFC on FOX Sports 1: 1 takes center stage in Boston on August 17, Lauzon said he hoping to mimic everything he did last time, but wants fill 1,000 seats with his family and friends this time. Of course being in his own backyard comes with its perks; like shooting air rifles with his crew on fight night, sleeping in his own bed, and most importantly finding the down time to focus before the fight.
“I’m really super excited to be fighting in Boston, but at the same time it’s going to be really hard to live up to that last fight,” Lauzon said to MMA Fight Corner. “It was the first time the UFC had come to Boston. It was the first time I got to fight in the Garden. It was such an awesome fight, a pretty one-sided beating. Everybody hated Gabe. It’s a lot to live up to. I’m going to try to out do it, but it’s going to be tough.”
Where Lauzon is concerned, tough is as tough does. In his last outing at UFC 155, Lauzon met Jim Miller. What ensued between the two scrappiest fighters in the lightweight division was a display of fortitude and tenacity that was considered by many pundits to be the Fight of the Year.
However in that battle, Lauzon’s forehead was sliced open requiring somewhere around forty stitches after the fight. He’s taken the last six months to recover from the battle wounds in hopes to maintain his longevity as an MMA fighter.
“The big thing on all the scar stuff is I want to take care of it as much as I can. I think a lot of guys have recurring issues with scar tissue, but it’s usually around their eyes, like the eyebrow and things like that – natural ridges of the skull that a little bit of scar tissue makes it way worse – it’s easier to get split open to begin with,” Lauzon explained. “I don’t think that getting punched is going to split it open. I think it might be a tiny bit more likely with an elbow. But, my forehead was fine before and an elbow split it open anyway.”
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Lauzon continued. “I just want to put myself in the best starting position for the next fight as I can. I didn’t want it to be a case of one punch hits me in the forehead and now I’m dealing with blood gushing all over my eye again. I think you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball if you don’t go into a fight as healthy as possible.”
Lauzon’s faced 30 opponents since beginning his professional MMA career. In the UFC, he’s 9-5 and has tied UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva for most post-fight bonuses in the organization’s history with 12. Suffice to say that earning the post-fight honors is no easy feat. For Lauzon, his collection of awards can be attributed to being a perfectionist that sets the bar higher and higher as his career progresses.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, I’ve had fights that I’ve won that I’m not happy with. Honestly, I put a lot of pressure on myself and I just want to go out there and do what I’ve been doing in camp. I put a lot of pressure on myself just to go out there and do the things I want to do,” Lauzon stated. “But winning and impressing judges, and impressing other people, I mean obviously I want to have exciting fights partially because I want to go out there and I want to do cool stuff. I want to go out there and win with an awesome armlock, or an impressive choke, or whatever I want to do. I’m never thinking about just winning rounds for judges, I just want to go out there and do my thing.”
The way Lauzon throws caution to the wind in his fights may be appreciated by fans that look for exciting finishes, but fighting all out wars can take its toll. Battles like the Jim Miller fight can wear on a fighter. Though he’s had his moments of wondering how much more his body can take, Lauzon made it clear that he has no intentions of stepping away from the sport just yet.
“I think about that sometimes, but I thought about that since my first fight though – my first fight against [Jens] Pulver. I remember after that training camp, the week of the fight I was like ‘I’m never fighting again’,” Lauzon recounted. “Like, if I have to do this much work, it’s not worth it. I don’t want to keep doing this, I don’t want this to be my life. It’s just way too much to try and maintain. And then I go out there and win the fight and everything’s great and I can’t wait to do it again.”
“So, it’s a little tough after a loss, but I like to think that I fight a smart fight. I made a couple comments after the fight like ‘I don’t want to end up with brain damage’ and stuff like that and I think people jumped on that a little bit too much. I wasn’t saying that I’m getting crazy brain damage every single fight and I’m not going to be able to find my car.
“The fact of the matter is you are out there, you are going to get hit,” Lauzon continued. “What I was talking about is if I have 200 fights and have lots of brain damage, take a lot of hits to the head like the Jim Miller fight, that stuff is going to accumulate. I’m not super worried about it. I think I fight smart fights, I think I train smart. I think I do everything I can and when it’s time for me to stop fighting, I’ll definitely know. I won’t be one of those guys who’s hanging on trying to get one more fight.”
Before he walks away, Lauzon would love nothing more than to obtain UFC gold. The lightweight division is regarded as one of the most competitive in the UFC and Lauzon is fully aware of what he’ll have to do to achieve that goal.
“You’re always looking at that title thing. I understand things are going to happen from time to time and if I have a year left in the sport, a title’s probably not going to happen,” Lauzon said. “But if I have 3 or 4 years, a lot can change in that time. I have been a little bit inconsistent with, you know, I get a couple wins, I get a loss…and that’s something where I’ve got to put together a few more wins, but I don’t think it’s ever out of the question – especially when there’s so many injuries and things like that that pop up all the time. There’s been tons of guys that have gotten title shots coming off a loss. I think it’s all about just being a little bit more consistent and just staying in the gym and staying active.”
Lauzon (22-8) is expected to go toe-to-toe with Michael Johnson (12-8) on August 17 at the TD Garden at UFC on FOX Sports 1: 1. Listen to the full interview here: