Sunday, March 25, 2007

A harsh ‘reality’ for Lauzon

Joe Lauzon, a quiet, 22-year-old college graduate, is about to enter a new dimension.

That’s because the Brockton native and East Bridgewater resident will be hitting the Spike TV airwaves, beginning April 5, as a member of the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter 5.”

Lauzon, a lightweight with one huge UFC fight on his resume, joined 15 other lightweights in a Las Vegas house in mid-January for the filming of the program, which runs 13 weeks. Though he is prevented contractually from revealing how he made out, the bottom line is that things won’t be the same for the budding star after the show is done airing.

“It’s going to be pretty insane,” Lauzon said. “I think if you’re coming out of that show, the road is a little easier. The UFC enlists time, money and effort into us.”

Fighters such as Diego Sanchez and Chris Leben have carried the popularity they’ve earned from the show and transferred it into successful careers in the UFC. Though Lauzon is a self-admittedly “low-key” guy, the potential fame would be just another remarkable step on an unorthodox rise.

“It’s ridiculous,” Lauzon said. “All the pieces have fallen into place for us. Every move we make is the perfect move.”

Lauzon was a baseball player at East Bridgewater High, but he and his friends loved to emulate the WWF and practice wrestling moves on each other. “We tried to beat each other up. We had no idea what we were doing.”

A ju jitsu demonstration at his school, by his now-trainer Joe Pomfret, began to turn Lauzon’s role-playing into the real thing. Lauzon started learning mixed martial arts and then began fighting in local shows. A key connection -- a friendof a friend happened to be a college roommate of UFC president Dana White -- led to correspondence with the UFC’s matchmaker.

“I’d e-mail him and say, ’What do you want to see me do?’ He’d e-mail back saying I need to beat a couple of better guys. I traveled around a little. I tried fighting at a lower weight class. I took a couple of fights in a row that were real tough fights.”

Persistence, and a little more luck, worked into the equation. Lauzon’s brother, Dan, who would also become a UFC fighter, was living at the time with UFC fighter Drew Fickett in Arizona. Fickett kept pushing Joe Lauzon to the people at the UFC until the breakthrough finally occurred. Lauzon was tabbed to be the “victim” for former lightweight champ Jens Pulver’s return to the UFC in September of last year.

“When I was offered the fight, we looked at it and said, ’Do I do it or do I back down?’ But looking at it, I had nothing to lose,” Lauzon said. “If I lost, I would have lost to the former lightweight champion in my first UFC fight. And what if I did win, that does everything for me.”

Of course, Lauzon did win the fight, knocking out Pulver in the first round, and changing his life forever.

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