By Elias Cepeda
Amid his national television appearances, eight wins in the UFC and record-setting submissions as a percentage of wins in the promotion, it might be hard to remember that Joe Lauzon is a regular guy who not too long ago worked a nine to five office job like lots of other Americans. Shortly after he graduated from college in 2006 with a computer science degree Lauzon got a shot in the UFC and the storyline for the Massachusetts native typically went like this: Smart college kid is fighting, for some reason.
Lauzon was supposed to be an opponent in his UFC debut, nothing more, for the returning former lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Instead, he stopped the legend in the first round and six years later “Baby Joe” is still at the top of the sport – fighting on this weekend’s UFC on FOX 4 card against former WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner.
The twenty eight year old is as surprised as anyone.
“I never expected it to go this far,” Lauzon says, speaking of the mixed martial arts career that he began back in high school. “I thought I’d get to do it for a year or so, maybe two years. Maybe I’d make a little bit of money and then I’d have to get back to working a real job. Now I’m dreading going back to a real job,” Lauzon laughs.
At the start of his UFC career, Lauzon maintained his full time IT job to pay off student loans. It wasn’t until after he was coached by BJ Penn and his staff on The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 and received an invite to go to Hawaii to train with the champ that Joe decided to switch to fighting full time.
At the time, it was a difficult decision for Lauzon. Looking back, he says he wishes he would have made it earlier.
“If I would have known how well things would have gone, I would have made the decision earlier,” he says.
Far from being jaded, opportunities like fighting on the main card for a nationally network televised bout still get Lauzon amped. “Fighting on FOX is definitely more exciting. There’s so much exposure,” he says. “It’s obviously nice to fight on pay per view cards, but this is great because FOX is free to everyone. I think it’s cool that Dana [White] is choosing me and Jamie to give back to fans. They know we can put on an exciting fight.”
Lauzon’s last fight was exciting, but not in the way he wanted. In February Joe got knocked out with a head kick by fellow contender and former WEC champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 144 in Japan.
“That was a long flight home from Japan,” he admits. “I watched [the fight] a little bit on the plane, but not too much. Since then I’ve watched it more. I got caught with a good kick. I wasn’t as attentive as I should have been. I think I put too much emphasis on the spinning back kick and didn’t see that one coming.”
Lauzon was able to put the loss behind him by focusing on the things he can control, however. He doesn’t want to lose again, obviously, but says there is no particular pressure to not lose two in a row, even though he has yet to in his career.
“You don’t want to lose one in a row. It’s not like there’s added pressure to not lose two in a row. Its probably going to happen at some point. Winning and losing is not as important as getting in a good camp. If I had won but hadn’t gotten in a good camp, I wouldn’t be as happy that I won,” Lauzon explains.
“I lost against Pettis but I had a really good camp so I cant beat myself up over it. As long as I put in a good camp, I can feel good about my effort no matter what happens.”