On Joe Lauzon, and what it takes to be the 'Fight of the Night'


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joe-lauzon-18.jpgWhen it comes to Joe Lauzon, people talk a lot about post-fight bonuses. It’s understandable. He’s won 12 of them in the UFC, tying him with former UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva for the company record.

You look at Lauzon’s resume and it pops right out at you. Submission of the Night: six times. Knockout of the Night: one time. Fight of the Night: five times.

It’s that last one that people tend to remember the most. What they might not take into account is what it costs a fighter to earn it.

“If I had a choice, I’d take ‘Submission of the Night’ every time,” Lauzon told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) in a recent phone interview. “I don’t think anyone’s really looking for ‘Fight of the Night.’”

There are a couple different reasons for that, according to Lauzon. For starters, all but one of his “Fight of the Night” bonuses have come after losses. While it’s nice to have the extra money to fill in the gap left by the missing win bonus, and while the pairing of money and recognition can sometimes soothe some hurt feelings, Lauzon said, “No one’s going out there thinking, well, I don’t care that I lost as long as I got a bonus.”

Then there’s the other part, the part that’s less about lost money and hurt feelings and more about lost blood and hurt body parts. As numerous fighters have pointed out in the past, the thing about getting “Fight of the Night” is, it usually means you got your head smashed in for at least part of the time you were in there.

For example, remember Lauzon’s most recent fight? The one where he, for the second time in a row, netted a “Fight of the Night” bonus? I’ll give you a hint: It’s the one that left him looking like someone’s bad Halloween costume for a week or so afterward. You might recall the way he helpfully documented his healing process on the UG forum. Or you might just remember him sitting in a pool of his own blood, forehead split wide open, trying for any submission he could think of before the clock ran out and Jim Miller was awarded the unanimous-decision victory.

What you might not have considered were the 40 stitches it took to close him up after that fight, or the multiple cuts on his face and scalp that each left their own little (or not so little) reminder of what he had to do to make that extra $65,000. Months later he was still undergoing a painful treatment to break up the scar tissue from that little adventure. It even kept him out of action for longer than he expected, so much so that he’s only now returning after a nearly eight-month layoff.

That’s a part of the exchange we don’t always think about when we get caught up in the UFC bonus talk. It’s not like it’s free money. Not when you have to bleed that much for it. The really crazy part is, because of the twisted calculus that comes with the professional fighter career choice, Lauzon doesn’t even consider the damage he suffered in the Miller fight to be all that bad.

“When I think about damage, I’m mostly concerned with head trauma,” Lauzon said. “I’m not thinking about cuts or anything like that. I’m thinking about head trauma. In that one, I don’t feel like I took a whole lot of head trauma. … Now, when [Anthony] Pettis hit me, he kicked me right in the face. That knocked me silly. That was way worse than the Miller fight.”

That’s the kind of thing that Lauzon thinks about now, on the verge of his bout with Michael Johnson at UFC Fight Night 26 this Saturday in Boston. Here he is, fighting in his home state of Massachusetts, leading off the main card in what the UFC hopes will be a successful launch of the brand new FOX Sports 1 network. Lauzon’s been at this long enough to be able to do the math on that. He knows that the UFC doesn’t put you in that spot if they don’t think you’ll deliver some excitement, but what kind? And at what cost?

“I’m not going out there thinking I need to kickbox with this guy, go the full 15 minutes and get everybody on their feet,” Lauzon said. “If I have my way, I’ll hit him, get him down, submit him in the first round, then get out of there while everybody’s still wondering what happened. I’m not going to let the fact that this is a big fight dictate what I’m going to do.”

The good news for Lauzon is, he has other options. He has a ground game and the willingness to use it. Especially against Johnson, who Lauzon insists is “not very good on the ground,” he has other avenues to victory and even to bonuses. Others aren’t so lucky. And knowing what he knows from hard-earned experience, Lauzon can’t help but wonder what will become of those guys.

“My style is to take people down and try to submit them,” Lauzon said. “I’ve had matches where I didn’t get punched at all. I think my style is great for preserving my brain. You look at a guy like Leonard Garcia, that’s what he does, is he goes out there, gets hit in the head and punches back. It’s a test of will every time. Guys like that are going to have problems later on. Guys like me who are trying to get people down, maybe not so much. I hope not.”

For the latest on UFC Fight Night 26, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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