Joe Lauzon has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Once mired in the RAM-eat-RAM world of information technology, Joe became an instant sensation when the UFC decided he would play the role of sacrificial lamb to the returning Jens Pulver at UFC 63.
I guess Joe never got the memo.
Before a stunned Anaheim crowd, Lauzon knocked Pulver senseless at 0:48 of the first round and became the little engine that could.
His next move would be a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 5 roster, where his previous upset would brand him as an early favorite to win it all. Lauzon fell short against finalist Manny Gamburyan, but looked impressive during his time on the show.
There he would meet his new coach and mentor in BJ Penn, one of the UFC's most talented veterans. Lauzon brought a new work ethic to UFC 78, steamrolling the undefeated Jason Reinhardt in the process.
Now comes his opportunity once again to keep the momentum going on April 2nd at UFC Fight Night 13 where he will face the dangerous Kenny Florian for a spot among the lightweight elite.
We caught up with "J-Lau" to get his thoughts on facing a fellow TUF graduate, his allegiance to BJ and the wild ride he's been on since debuting in 2004.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Joe, first and foremost thank you for taking the time to check in with us at MMAmania.com. How is your health as you approach your next fight?
Joe Lauzon: It's good. I'm healthy - no injuries or anything.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Talk about your experience on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5.
Joe Lauzon: It was good and bad. Good because of all the exposure. Bad because it sucks being stuck in a house with fifteen other guys with no outside stimulation. It wasn't a huge test mentally but it definitely wasn't fun either.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Was it awkward being around Jens Pulver considering you had just knocked him out during his UFC return at UFC 63?
Joe Lauzon: It wasn't a big deal. I didn't know how it was going to be but when I first saw him I walked up and gave him a hug. He called me "The Spoiler" because I ruined all of his comeback plans. Even the night we fought I hung out with him afterwards for forty-five minutes waiting for the press conference to start just shootin' the shit talking about video games and all kinds of stuff. He's a pretty good guy.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Did that win put extra pressure on you to make it to the finals? What were your expectations?
Joe Lauzon: It added some pressure but there is good and bad pressure. This was good pressure because it made me work harder.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How were you received by the guys at the house? Was there any animosity because you walked in with that huge win under your belt?
Joe Lauzon: Not at all. I know a lot of guys from Team Pulver wanted to fight me. Nate [Diaz] wanted to fight me. Not because he had a problem with me but because he saw it as a challenge. Those guys wanted make their coach proud. Same thing with Manny [Gamburyan].
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Speaking of Manny, what are your thoughts on the outcome of that fight and your performance?
Joe Lauzon: He took me down and held me there but he didn't do a lot of damage. Any fight that happens on the show is different. You don't have any of your coaches or any of your regular training partners. I definitely think you would see a different fight if we met again.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you stay in touch with any of those guys?
Joe Lauzon: I talk to Manny, to Nate, Geraghty, "Monstah", Noah, Gray, Wiman, even Gabe once and a while.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Has the show run its course or is there still some life left in the series?
Joe Lauzon: I definitely think as time goes on they have to be more careful to keep it about fighting and not all the other stuff. It gets harder - I think the talent pool is always the best the first few times but I don't see the show going anywhere anytime soon.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How much does today's UFC fighter have to worry about having a marketable personality?
Joe Lauzon: It always helps. Tito Ortiz was the poster boy for the UFC not just because he was winning but because of his personality while guys like Matt Lindland and Bustamante were winning just as much but not getting the same kind of push. Personality is important.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like you have to bring some showmanship to your fights?
Joe Lauzon: When people try to put on an act it doesn't come off very well. I try to have showmanship by putting on an exciting fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): You're now training with one of today's best fighters in BJ Penn. When did you first meet him?
Joe Lauzon: I saw him at UFC 63 a couple of times but we didn't really talk until we were on the show.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And how did you go from TUF hopeful to full-time Grasshopper?
Joe Lauzon: I was one of the only guys on the team who was really trying to get the most out of him and I think he appreciated that. He told the entire team at one point that we could all come out to Hawaii but when I called him from the airport after it was over to thank him and say goodbye he was telling me to come out to Hawaii and he kept posting on his website "Lauzon get out here!" so I knew he wanted me to come.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): It's gotta feel good to have a UFC legend send you a personal invite.
Joe Lauzon: Absolutely.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Was his influence partly responsible for the way you steamrolled Jason Reinhardt at UFC 78?
Joe Lauzon: Reinhardt had a lot of disadvantages from the get-go. I was more talented on the ground, standing, better training people. Jason had a perfect record but he hadn't fought the best competition. I was a huge favorite going into it. BJ was definitely an influence but I don't think that fight was going his way regardless.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Assuming BJ can defeat the returning Sean Sherk, how does that affect your plans to go all the way in the lightweight division?
Joe Lauzon: I don't want to fight BJ. I would much rather be training under him and improving. And I don't think he's going to be sticking around 155 very long anyway. I can wait.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Is it hard to stay objective on the Sherk steroid scandal now that you're a part of BJ's camp?
Joe Lauzon: Not really, it doesn't matter to me personally. Everyone kind of gets cheated in a way when someone gets caught using steroids. It's not like I hate the guy or anything but I definitely know which side I'm on.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Sherk got caught and served his suspension - but does he deserve to come back and get right back into title contention?
Joe Lauzon: Well if it was a one-time thing. I mean I don't think he should be banned from the UFC but I don't think anyone will look at him the same way again.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Are steroids always going to be a problem in this sport?
Joe Lauzon: I think you're always gonna have guys push the limits no matter what's done - they're always looking for that extra edge. I guess it's just a matter of how far do they wanna push it. I think the more guys that get caught the tighter the restrictions are going to get.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about the positive influences on your career. Who are some stars of yesteryear that may have inspired or influenced you?
Joe Lauzon: There are so many guys. BJ, Frank Shamrock, Vitor Belfort. Obviously Royce Gracie. A list of guys.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Name a current fighter that you absolutely MUST watch every time out.
Joe Lauzon: Anderson Silva is great to watch. Great on the ground, incredible striker, you see it everywhere.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Can he be stopped?
Joe Lauzon: I definitely think someone is gonna get him. Styles make fights. Sooner or later someone will get him.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do I hear Lauzon at Middleweight to make a run?
Joe Lauzon: (Deadpans) No.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): You're in a division that has so much depth. How do you rank yourself among the other rising stars like Roger Huerta and Frankie Edgar?
Joe Lauzon: I think I'm right there with all those guys. This next fight is going to be a good measuring stick to see where I rank but I definitely think I can hang with any of them.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): On paper you match up very well with Kenny Florian in almost every aspect. What is the one thing you are focusing on where you feel you have a distinct advantage?
Joe Lauzon: I think Kenny is good in a number of places. His cardio is great, his ground is very good and his stand-up is dangerous. I'm going to have to rely on putting a number of things together with perfect timing and good cardio. I'm gonna have to pressure him and once we're out there I'll know better whether or not I want to keep it on the feet or take it to the ground. He's dangerous in both places so we'll start on our feet and see where it goes. I have the better hands and I think he has the better kicks so we'll see.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Any chance this will go to a decision?
Joe Lauzon: I'm not planning on a decision. I'm going to stop him. We're working the cardio for it but I don't see this one being boring at all. It's going to be a pretty high-pace from start to finish.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What weight are you training/walking around at?
Joe Lauzon: I walk around at 170. I usually cut the day before weigh-ins. It depends on how I'm feeling but it's pretty easy. I can make 155 without really trying.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And how would you describe your style?
Joe Lauzon: I'm a grappler.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How did you first get started in mixed martial arts?
Joe Lauzon: I started out wrestling in the backyard with my friends. They eventually started doing jiu-jitsu so I started doing jiu-jitsu. Then they started fighting so I started fighting. It all kind of happened by accident.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And do your parents support your career?
Joe Lauzon: They support me, they're real good that way.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Was it a tough sell in the beginning? Hey Mom, Dad, I want to get beat-up for a living.
Joe Lauzon: I didn't really ask them. It was tough getting them to say yes to agree to the jiu-jitsu training in the beginning. They were saying "You're going to get your neck broken!" but once we started doing it for a while they saw it was ok. It was a gradual transition so that made it easier too.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And I'm sure being successful at it didn't hurt. If you were 0-20 they might not be jumping on the bandwagon.
Joe Lauzon: Oh yeah. It helps that I'm fighting and I'm winning as opposed to I'm fighting and I'm getting my ass kicked.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And how is your relationship with your brother Dan?
Joe Lauzon: Good. He's back home right now. He may join our camp the next time I'm up. We're brothers so we fight as much as anybody but overall our relationship is good.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Did you set a career timeline for yourself? How long will you continue to fight?
Joe Lauzon: I'm going to keep fighting as long as I still enjoy it.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What about the other side of this business? How does it feel to be a recognizable fighter?
Joe Lauzon: It happens a lot. I'm not a superstar but people still come up to me all the time. It's definitely an adjustment when you're in the grocery store and people want to get autographs and take pictures.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Has it been hard to behave when you're enjoying the nightlife?
Joe Lauzon: I don't drink so it's not a problem for me. I know that's where most guys have a problem but I get off pretty easy there.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Well you may not get off easy against Kenny Florian but we do wish you the best of luck when you fight him on April 2nd. Is there anything you would like us to promote?