Few UFC fighters are better engaged with their fans than Joe Lauzon. The former IT professional combines his digital and marketing savvy with a sincere enjoyment of connecting with fight fans.
If it weren't for his fans, the lightweight star probably wouldn't be as excited for his just-announced UFC 200 contest against Diego Sanchez as he is. Last year, Lauzon was tabbed to face Sanchez on short notice.
Lauzon was game, but didn't really get particularly excited for the showdown until creative fan-art began popping up all over the internet hyping Sanchez vs. Lauzon. Many of them were quite clever and well-done (Click the links. You're welcome).
All of them celebrated the idea that with two of the sport's most exciting fighters locking up, thrilling action was sure to ensure. "I wasn't that excited about it until all the photoshops started rolling in," Lauzon admits to FOXSports.
"It was a short-notice fight, but I was in pretty good shape, healthy and I thought I would get in shape pretty fast. I ended up having to pull out because Chris Palmquist busted up my ribs with a hook right after we took the fight, but in that period where we were training for Diego for three to four days, all the photoshops started rolling in. There was a, 'There will be blood,' one. There was a, 'The Shining' one. There was a, 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' one. There were so many really good ones! At that point I started to realize that it would be a really good fight, and I started getting more excited for it."
Unfortunately, both Lauzon and Sanchez ended up hurt and unable to fight at that Mexico City card. That cult fan favorite matchup is once more scheduled to be a reality, however, July 9 and Lauzon is just as excited as he was back then.
In Sanchez, he sees an incredibly tough human being who doesn't back up when most will, and who also showed a newfound patience and tactical mind in his last bout -- an impressive win over Jim Miller. "Diego is willing to exchange no matter where he is," Lauzon said.
"When he takes you down, he's trying to end your life. On the feet, he's trying to end your life. He's very aggressive. He's got a good chin and no matter how much you hit him, he leeps on coming. If I go punch someone and hit them, clean, they generally retreat. They take a step back, or something. If you're punching a wall, though, that wall is not going anywhere. So, you're not inclined to keep punching the wall. Usually you feed off someone reacting a little bit to your hits. You think you're making progress.
"Diego, if I crack him, he's going to keep on coming. He's got good wrestling, good jiu-jitsu. He's hyper aggressive and doesn't care if you take him down or if he ends up on top. A lot of strikers are over-aggressive and get taken down. But he throws with blind aggression because he's not worried about wrestling with you or fighting on the ground. He's not really a striker, but he has no problem throwing strikes."
For all the praise he heaps on his opponent, Lauzon is also confident that he can edge out the TUF 1 champion. "I think we're both very similar, skill-wise," he said.
"I think I'm a little more straight with my punches and a little bit faster with my punches. I might have to hit him 15 times to have any kind of impact on him, to make a difference where it affects him in any way, but I think I'm a little bit quicker to the punch. He's trying to kill people out there with his style. He's like the living embodiment of the Fighting Irish logo. That's legit how he wants to fight - with big uppercuts. He has a quirky kind of style.
"I'm interested to see how my wrestling does against his. I'm interested to see how my jiu-jitsu does against his, and how my boxing does against his. I think it's a really great fight. I think it's a really exciting fight."