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The Travel Chronicles, Part 1: From Heart to Limb to Pen

Help from JLau

I first met UFC lightweight contender Joe Lauzon the night of his debut in the organization — a dramatic TKO upset win over former world champion Jens Pulver in September, 2006. I was in Anaheim, the site of UFC 63, to cover the event for the late, great, (what, you thought I had shame?).

If I had been a better scout I would have already heard of and watched Joe fight before that weekend. He’d already been lighting up the Massachusetts scene, including winning a lightweight tournament.

But all I knew about the guy was that he had one of the most unnerving game face stares I’d ever seen at the pre event press conference on the Thursday before the fights. At least I assumed it was his “game face,” trying to focus, be and look intense and intimidating.

After he beat Pulver and was in full celebration mode backstage at the Pond, Joe had the same serial killer expression on his face, or to be more exact, in his eyes. The kid just looked intense at all times.

That’s the first thing that struck me about him. The second was his fighting ability — he took out an all-time great just months after graduating college, after all, and did so while working a 9-5 job, in his first UFC fight. But I came to learn that the best thing about Joe was how down to earth and nice he was.

Over the years he’d gone on to break UFC records, take part in main events and become a popular international figure. But he never changed his approach to interacting with fans or the media. He stayed accessible and downright friendly.

He even helped me by offering telephone IT support when I called him once from an airport because I was having a problem with my laptop. Really.

He was about to help me with something a tad more significant.

Joe was visiting nearby Chicago suburb Joliet to take part in a huge paintball meetup of youtube channel subscribers of FPS Russia and Woody’s Gamer Tag. Both guys are certified web celebrities with insanely large followings. They make their livings, good livings, from their youtube channels and podcast. Thousands of their subscribers and fans were coming from all over the world to congregate in Joliet to play paint ball with them.

Since the only exciting things in Joliet were that paintball meetup and the town’s prison, I told Joe he needed to drive to Chicago for at least one day.

He did, along with FPS Russian and WTG. The plan was Brazilian churrasco, the Sears Tower and then training. Joe took class, got along well with my head coach Dino Costeas and rolled (Jiu Jitsu sparring with no striking) with the guys.

This trip was Joe’s last little break before heading into a training camp back home in the Boston area for the fight that would become his incredible battle with Jamie Varner on the August 2012 UFC on Fox card.

After class I asked him to work with me in the cage. It wouldn’t be accurate to call what we did sparring because if Joe would have gone hard enough against me to be called actual sparring, I wouldn’t be around to write this right now. So, we geared up and Joe let me work a bit with him.

Joe tossed me around for a few rounds but also imparted some great perspective. He saw tendencies I had that were not going to help me in the fight and corrected them, sometimes as they happened and sometimes in between rounds.

After that, we rolled on the ground and then he showed me some exercises and stretches to do for my lower back, which I had thrown out in the first week of my camp and still bugged me. Training with Lauzon made real something I already suspected. Joe is certainly an athletic guy but his success at the highest levels of MMA really seems to come from more than that.

His real talent is in his mindset — it seems to be what pushes him to go hard during fights, always for the finish, but also what has compelled him to train hard every day since he was a teenager. He’s a pit bull with an analytic mind. Lauzon has the smarts to know what strategy will give him the best chance to win and when opponents expose themselves he latches on and doesn’t let go.

Many fans really don’t understand how these world class fighters are a different breed. I’ve trained for over a decade, handled myself in the ring and outside of it fine and had about forty pounds on Joe but he had no problem toying with me on the feet or on the ground.

It wasn’t just that he was better than me technically, which didn’t surprise me, but that he felt stronger. I was a couple weeks away from competing at light heavyweight and a lightweight was much stronger than me. I’ve found this to be true with other top fighters as well over the years.

When fans watch a fight on television, boo and fantasize that they could get in the ring and do better than UFC fighters they simply have no idea what it feels like to lock up with them. The years of disciplined training, wars in sparring and under the bright lights and who knows what else really makes guys like Joe Lauzon another type of human being.

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Cagepotato Comments

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LoneWolf- October 12, 2012 at 11:31 am
Great story, one of the most sincere I've read on this site.
mookiestick- October 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm
That was a fascinating article. I'm not a fighter although as a child I fought often in the streets. Perhaps because I lived in an abusive household and had an alcoholic father. Still I'm not a fighter an all that doesn't matter now. Those three sentences "who are you?" really sum it all up.

I'm in my 40's now. A Black Belt in Shotokan Karate. Have sparred hundreds of times and even competed at a high level. Still, they were not fights. No one was out to beat you senseless. It was very structured point fighting. I never knew who I was. I still don't.

I do know how to stand up for myself and others but have always talked sense into my aggressor as opposed to attacking. In fact it happened twice over the weekend. The word is full of loonies. Knowing how to defend yourself can save your life.

That was such a good article that I can't wait for the next episode. I also want to learn more about who I'm not and what I can't do. I guess, I'll have to train and fight now. Thanks for making me want to go out and get my ass kicked. I'm way too old for this shit.
imnotgay- October 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm
way too many words needs more pictures
Houstons db- October 11, 2012 at 7:35 am
I thought this article was too long as is but there's a part 2! Nooooo!!!! Post the vid of this fight to make it worth the read.
hooligun- October 11, 2012 at 5:18 am
Best piece ever, awesome mate!
tosr- October 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm
Great article, enjoyed every word.
Zescape- October 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm
Really well-written and engrossing article so far. I watched the live stream of your fight, so it's interesting to hear the back story behind the opponent change and your reaction. I look forward to part II.

No punchline. Thank you Elias. Best piece of writing on CP in a while, maybe since Old Dad.
Clemmie- October 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Clemmie- October 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm

In a total "wants to sex you" kind of way
NomadRip- October 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Not in a "wants to do sex to you" kind of way.
mandible- October 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm
amazing article, really enjoyed it, can't wait for the next segment.
angry little feet- October 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm
I agree - I don't want to wait till next week.I actually got so engrossed in reading this that for a while I forgot I was at my crappy job and should be doing something productive. Not something I ever expected to happen here. No offense CP ;)
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm
lil feet, glad you're into it. Keep reading! BenG deserves all of the credit for this feature happening. Yes, he's capable of being hilarious and snarky better than just about anyone out there, but he's an editor with real vision.
apogee- October 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm
dude i held in a poop for 10 minutes to read this article.. and theres no ending?!?!?! i might as well just shit in my computer chair
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm
HA!! Agreed, just go for it
2DaDeath- October 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Great read! I'm hooked!
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm
Thanks, glad you like it!
The12ozCurls- October 10, 2012 at 11:54 am
We gotta wait a week. Don't get me wrong, I know how this fight ends, but come on. Good read EC - I dug it.
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm
Thanks brother!
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 11:58 am
No spoilers!! Ahhh, can't take it man, I gotta know! He loses, right? His knee gets blown out, but he pulls a Brett Rogers and goes three rounds without figuring it out, and loses by unanimous decision.
The12ozCurls- October 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

My man EC is actually a quadriplegic now after this fight and all his beloved filet o fish sandwiches have to first go through the blender because he can never eat solid food again. Stay tuned to next weeks addition of The Travel Chronicle where EC actually finds out his dread-locked opponent is a real life Predator. GET TO THE CHOPPAW!
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 11:34 am
Is that you punching the ref in the pic?
Elias- October 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm
I did punch the ref with all of my might...*spoiler alert* he then proceeded to beat the fuck out of me