Lauzon one IT guy you don’t want to anger
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports Mar 30, 8:09 pm EDT
A word of warning to office workers everywhere: The next time you feel the urge to curse the geeky-looking IT guy you think caused your laptop to crash, breathe deeply and avoid the smart-alecky comment.
The Mister Peepers-looking guy could be another harmless nerd, but, then again, he could also be Joe Lauzon.
Lauzon is the baby-faced one-time network administrator who looks like he’s still in junior high but fights like he’s the toughest guy on the block.
Which, in most cases, it turns out he is.
Lauzon, 23, is a UFC lightweight good enough that the division’s champion, B.J. Penn, called him “phenomenal” and invited Lauzon from Massachusetts to train with him in Hilo, Hawaii.
He faces Kenny Florian in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 13 on Wednesday in suburban Denver, an important bout that will push the winner closer to a shot at the title in perhaps the UFC’s most stacked division.
“We’ve got so many great 155s, it’s hard to say who’s next (to meet the winner of the May 24 title bout between Penn and Sean Sherk at UFC 84 in Las Vegas),” UFC president Dana White said. “But this is a huge fight for both of these guys, because a win will be so significant.”
Less than two years ago, Lauzon was content with a full-time career as the guy in charge of maintaining a 130-computer network for Charles River Analytics in Cambridge, Mass., while training for his fighting career part time.
And while he was preparing for what was then the biggest bout of his career, against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver at UFC 63 in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2006, Lauzon was insisting he didn’t want to become a full-time fighter and that he’d lose interest in fighting if it became a job.
After a 47-second knockout over the veteran Pulver and a successful run on “The Ultimate Fighter 5,” Lauzon rethought his decision.
His fuzzy, youthful looks belies a rugged and fierce competitor.
“The only part of him that isn’t really athletic is his face,” said WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, who trained with Lauzon in Hawaii at Penn’s camp. “He’s really a strong guy. He can go and go and he’s very athletic. You look at his face and you might think, ‘Ah, this is just another guy,’ but if you get in there with him, you find out he’s got a lot of substance to him (as a fighter).”
Lauzon quit the IT job after his success on “The Ultimate Fighter,” taking up Penn’s offer to train him. But Lauzon didn’t give up his passion for technology just because he became a full-time fighter.
He’s found a way to use his expertise with computers and his notoriety as a fighter to his advantage.
He set up his own webpage, http://www.joelauzon.com
, where he posts pictures, videos and blog entries. He has mailing lists on Facebook and MySpace with several thousand subscribers each.
He also has a blog where he posts random thoughts and photos he shoots with his iPhone.
In the days before and after a fight, he says he’ll get upwards of 500 messages a day, many of which he answers.
“The biggest thing is the exposure all this stuff gives me,” Lauzon said. “You have to remember, the majority of fans aren’t diehards. They’re not watching every single thing. The diehards, they forget that they’re such a small minority and that most people are more casual fans. So I use my website to keep reminding them of who I am and what I’m doing. We do a lot of fun stuff. The other day, it was Noah’s (Thomas) birthday, so we took the camera in and woke him up and were beating him with sandals. We got the video and I posted it and it was a lot of fun that people kind of got a kick out of.
“You have to remember, you’re asking your sponsors to pay you money to wear their logo, too, and if I can wear a shirt in one of these or a hat or something and get that trademark out there a little more, then I’m helping the guys who help me. So it just seemed to me to make sense to do this.”
The exposure is critical because so much of the fighters’ pay comes from endorsements.
Heavyweight Frank Mir made $40,000 to show and $40,000 to win for his submission victory over Brock Lesnar at UFC 81 in Las Vegas. But Mir also made $85,000 in sponsorship deals, more than doubling his haul. Even with the $60,000 bonus Mir earned from the UFC for submission of the night, his sponsorship money still amounted to 38.9 percent of his income.
Lauzon understands the fragility of a career of a professional fighter and said what he’s doing isn’t a distraction but simply another part of his responsibility.
“What I was doing before was a safe job,” Lauzon said. “I’d go home from work and go train or whatever, but I knew there would be a job there for me in the morning. Fighting is completely the opposite. If I get in a car accident, if I get hurt in training, if I get hurt in a fight, if all of a sudden I don’t have it, that all affects your career and the bottom line.
“If Kenny goes and twists his ankle on Tuesday, the fight is off and I don’t get paid and I’m out a ton of money. People don’t realize that. It costs a lot to go through one of these camps and you only get paid if you fight. It’s a volatile career. I could have gone the safe route with the job and the insurance and the guarantee that I knew pretty much the job would always be there. I have 100 grand in student loans and so that would have maybe been the smart thing to do.
“But there is something about fighting. I just enjoy so many aspects of this and I felt that if I could learn under someone like B.J., I couldn’t pass that up.”
Florian is – by far – the toughest test of Lauzon’s young career.
Lauzon (16-3) knows Florian, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, will be dangerous should the fight get to the ground, but he won’t back away from grappling if the fight goes down. He also insists he’s willing to stand and trade with Florian, if necessary.
The outcome is in doubt, but one thing is certain: Win or lose, Lauzon will be pecking away at his iPhone on Thursday telling his fans what went down.
“Just using everything I have going for me,” Lauzon says, laughing, “just like I do in my fights.”