joe-lauzon-18.jpgVeteran UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon has been on the sidelines since December, and his return is still at least three or four months away. But there’s a good reason he’s been limited in the gym.

In December, the UFC’s record-holder for fight-night bonuses picked up his fifth “Fight of the Night” award in a decision loss to Jim Miller. The bout – one of two in 2012 that earned Lauzon “Fight of the Year” consideration – was an awfully bloody one. Lauzon suffered a deep forehead gash early in the fight but fought through the blood in a rousing but ultimately losing performance.

Lauzon (22-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC) returned to the mats this past week, but he’s been limited in what he can do in the gym. About two-and-a-half months after the Miller loss, Lauzon is still dealing with heavy scar tissue from those early-fight elbows.

“There was like a big raised ridge underneath there just full of scar tissue,” he recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “The big thing is that I’m paranoid – really paranoid – that I’m going to start training again, and if all that scar tissue is still there, I’ll make it to the end of camp, and I’ll take a shot. It’ll open it up again, or it’ll open up right at the beginning of when I fight again.

“So I made a decision to take it a little slower.”

Now, here’s where things get a little gruesome. If you touch your forehead, you can easily feel your skull underneath your skin. Lauzon, though, also felt up to half an inch of scar tissue underneath the cut. Even the scar tissue around the cut was nearly a quarter-inch deep. Cosmetically, the cut looks fine. But underneath, it’s still a bit of a mess. 

To combat the problem, John Pallof, a physical therapist at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning in Massachusetts, has been working with Lauzon and using something called the Graston Technique.

“Basically he takes a metal tool and digs at the scar tissue to break it all up,” Lauzon said. “So I can legit feel all the scar tissue breaking up and getting smaller and smaller. It’s super painful, but I’ve basically been doing that. But I can only do it once a week. You can basically aggravate the crap out of it, break it all up, and then you need a couple days off to rest and stuff. So it’s a little slow going.”

This past Monday, Lauzon carefully returned to the mats for some light grappling. He said he could feel the scar tissue slightly tearing and breaking up as he worked. That’s to be expected.

But Lauzon said he’s been careful about whom he uses as a training partner during the recovery process because he’s worried about a substantial issue with the tissue. While he’s currently targeting a mid-summer return, he knows one setback could both put him on the sidelines and further aggravate the still-tender tissue, which could have career-long effects.

“I’ve been in the gym, but I really don’t trust my forehead at all and don’t want to risk opening it up,” he said. “One accidental headbutt or accidental elbow could make it all swell up and cut open.”

The delay also comes at an unfortunate time for Lauzon, who first debuted with the UFC back in 2006 with an upset of Jens Pulver. Lauzon, a longtime contender in the UFC’s deep 155-pound division, was on a 3-1 run (with three “Submission of the Night” bonuses) until the loss to Miller.

He wants to get back in the win column as quickly possible. But he also wants to give his loyal fans something else to talk about besides his valiant but losing effort to Miller.

“The big thing that kills me is, how could that fight have been different if I hadn’t got caught?” he said. “It was basically one combination that Jim threw. He threw a bunch of elbows in a row – one quick little flurry right at the beginning of the first (round). That’s what opened up the cut. So the big thing that really gets at me is what would have happened in that fight if I slipped that combination or did something just a little different? That’s kind of the part that gets to me.

“But I’m glad people enjoyed the fight. I always said I’d rather lose a good fight than win a super-boring one. I always say that, and I still stand by that.”

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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