If there’s one thing that Joe Lauzon and Dana White can agree on, it’s that his performance at UFC on ESPN 6 would be a hell of a high to go out on. It might also be a head-scratcher to keep on going.
Lauzon, the 43-fight veteran who has long been a proud representative of Massachusetts MMA, put on a vintage performance on Friday at TD Garden in Boston, tying Octagon newcomer Jonathan Pearce up on the mat and finishing him with a torrent of punches in the first round. Given Lauzon’s experience, and the fact that he entered the bout on a three-fight losing streak, there was a question of whether this could be the last time Lauzon made the walk to the Octagon.
According to White, the plan was for Lauzon to hang up the gloves regardless of the outcome, so he was as surprised as anyone when Lauzon declined to commit to a retirement at the evening’s post-fight press conference.
“Me and Joe Lauzon had a deal that he would retire after this fight, win, lose, or draw,” White said. “And he didn’t do it.”
“What better way to go out than tonight?” White continued. “He beat a real guy tonight. He beat a tough guy that I bet a lot of people didn’t think he was gonna beat and he made it look easy.
“This is one of those things when you’re talking to a guy who loves to fight like Joe Lauzon loves to fight and the Chuck Liddells and many, many more in the past that I’ve dealt with. It’s so hard to walk away – (they say) ‘I looked great tonight,’ and then if they lose, ‘Well, I can’t go out like this. Getting beat in my hometown in front of all my…’ It’s just…you know.”
Lauzon’s relationship with the UFC dates all the way back to UFC 63 in September 2006, when he picked up a shocking 48-second knockout of former lightweight champion Jens Pulver. He earned further exposure as a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter 5 before embarking on a lengthy UFC career. Friday marked his 27th Octagon appearance, the third-most among lightweights behind only Gleison Tibau (28) and Jim Miller (32).
In his last fight prior to UFC on ESPN 6, Lauzon lost via TKO (doctor stoppage) to Chris Gruetzmacher last April. He said he’d been in fight mode ever since while also enjoying a break from competition that lasted over 550 days, the longest time he’d ever taken off between bouts.
Lauzon admitted that it was emotional returning to action in his home state.
“I was definitely crying a little bit,” Lauzon said. “I was trying to keep it in as best I could. I try not to be all that emotional about stuff, I try to be a little stoic, but I was definitely feeling it.
“Even like, walking out before the fight, I was just looking around, we had all the people in the green shirts we printed up at my gym. I was feeling it. There’s so much that went into this. Usually you hear about, ‘Oh, it’s been eight or 10 weeks, it’s been really, really hard,’ (and) literally since April of last year I’ve been thinking about this.
“I was super unhappy with my last fight, and then since November, I’ve literally been in fight camp since last November. I’ve just been crushing it. Not complaining to anyone, just doing what I’m supposed to do, just silently going and torturing myself, just getting ready and then it finally was here. It was nice that it went so smoothly.”
Regarding concerns about his chin, Lauzon explained that he was never overly concerned outside of his TKO loss to Clay Guida in November 2017. Otherwise, he’s felt confident competing with the younger fighters at his gym, which includes several names on the UFC roster.
Lauzon didn’t mention whether or not he had spoken to White about retirement and kept the door open for another booking.
“It’s a great way to end it if that’s the end, for sure,” he said. “But we’ll kind of see how things go. I’m always going to be training, whether I’m cornering or helping out guys. We got a lot of guys that train at my gym now: Rob Font, Calvin Kattar, Mike Rodriguez, Peter Barrett, we’ve got a lot of guys that are always getting in for fights. So I’m in the gym with them all the time anyways.
“We’ll kind of see what happens. I’m not like, ‘This is definitely the last fight,’ but I’m also not saying I’m definitely going to do it again. Tonight was a great night, but I think too many guys kind of fall into the trap of like, they have a good fight, like ‘I’m back, here we go!’ I’m not there, but we’ll take it and we’ll see what happens. Maybe I fight in six months, maybe I fight in a year, maybe I’m done, who knows? I’m not going to commit to anything. I’ll stay in the USADA pool. I don’t mind. They come banging on my door every once in a while, no big deal. We’ll see what happens.”