(Lauzon still carries a little reminder from his most recent war against Jim Miller. / Photo via Getty)
By Elias Cepeda
“I’m definitely excited and equally scared,” Joe Lauzon says while driving through some nasty Boston traffic this past Wednesday. On Saturday, the Massachusetts lightweight will fight in front of his home town at the Boston Garden on the UFC Fight Night 26 main card — but that isn’t what has Lauzon excited and scared.
The 29-year-old just found out that he and his girlfriend are expecting their first child together, a boy. “Obviously I want everything to go smooth and have a healthy kid. There’s all kinds of stuff to be worried about,” he confesses.
That’s Joe the expecting father talking. Joe the fighter doesn’t expect a child to change anything at all for him.
“Having a kid doesn’t change anything for me, fight wise. There’s a little bit with timing — I don’t want to fight right before or after he is born, but other than that…I train really hard and I fight really hard. I don’t think having a kid will change any of that,” he says.
So don’t expect platitudes from Lauzon about how being a dad adds or takes away from his motivation, as has often been said by other fighters. Joe likes to scrap, always had, always will.
And, after a pretty long lay-off, Lauzon has a good, tough bout ahead of him Saturday against the underrated Michael Johnson. 2012 saw Lauzon raise his star with a win and two Fight of The Year candidates, but he has yet to fight in 2013, choosing to let old injuries heal and wait for a chance to fight in Boston.
“Last year I was 1-2 so it was not my most productive year,” he says. “But I still had some good fights. A couple fight night awards but it was not the best year for me. I had a lot of stupid little nagging injuries, so taking a little more time off after the Miller fight was great. I could have fought months ago but we kept hearing rumblings about Boston in August or the fall so we decided to try and wait a little longer to fight at home as opposed to rushing out and fighting injured earlier and missing this chance.”
The chance to fight in his home state for the first time since a win at UFC 118 in 2010 holds more than sentimental appeal to Lauzon. It’s also just plain easier.
“At first, when I got into the UFC (in 2006) the whole traveling process was pretty cool. Going to airports, flying across the country, having your hotel paid for by the UFC,” Joe remembers.
“But now it is getting a little old. I’m not the biggest fan of flying or airports and it is nice to sleep in your own bed, eat the food you like, be able to do laundry and have my own car.”
What’s more, Lauzon’s loyal Boston-area friends and fans won’t have to go through so many hoops to see him fight live. “That’s really the coolest part,” he says.
“I have a lot of people who are so supportive and come to see me fight every time, no matter where I’m fighting. When they do that, they have to take time off of work, buy airplane tickets, pay for hotels — it’s a huge commitment out of their lives just to see me fight and support me. With this fight being in Boston, all they’ve got to do is buy their fight tickets and show up. It’s much easier on them.”
Lauzon is wrapping up a busy day of media obligations, including an open workout at The Garden, and he’s had friends and family and well-wishers on him like white on rice for the past couple months. With all the hub-bub of fighting at home, he still hasn’t forgotten that he’s got to fight and beat a man on Saturday night for all this to be a truly good time.
“I think we are pretty comparable in wrestling and stand-up,” Lauzon says, comparing himself to Johnson. “But I’m pretty far ahead on the ground. So, I don’t think it is any secret that we’ve got to go in there, get in the clinch and take him down. We’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to get him down and once we’re on the ground, I think the submission will come.”
If it does, Lauzon will undoubtedly bring the Boston Garden crowd to their feet. The exciting fighter says that when he last fought at home, in 2010, he didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the reception he’d get as well as the emotional charge from the Boston fans.
“I didn’t quite understand how many people were going to be there the last time, at UFC 118. I didn’t realize how crazy it would be being a local guy,” Joe says.
“Now, I get it and I’m really looking forward to it. It is going to be absolutely roaring. A lot of times when I walk out to fight, I don’t look up, I don’t look at the crowd, I’m just looking at the ground. This time, I don’t want to lose focus, but I am going to pay a little more attention to it. I’m going to embrace it a little more. We trained real hard, I’m healthy and I’m ready to go…I want to get back in the win column and if I get this win I’ll be incredibly thankful.”