UFC Lightweight Joe Lauzon’s first trip back to the Octagon in 2009 pits him against former title contender Hermes Franca. “J-Lau” went 1-1 in 2008 losing to Kenny “Ken-Flo” Florian and bouncing back with a TKO victory over Kyle Bradley. The Massachusetts native hopes to kick off ’09 with a bang by defeating the former American Top Team fighter.

PRO MMA caught up with Lauzon Wednesday morning to discuss his February 7th bout with Franca, along with a bevy of other topics. In the first installment of this two part feature, The Ultimate Fighter veteran talked about life after his loss to Kenny Florian, what he looks at while studying an opponent as well as his thoughts on how his Ultimate Fight Night 17 bout will end.

PRO MMA: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Joe.
Lauzon: Hey no problem, thank you.

PRO MMA: Joe, what was going through your mind when you signed the bout agreement to fight Hermes Franca?
Lauzon: I kind of looked at it like a second chance. The Florian fight I was real nervous, real skeptical about it. I didn’t really know if I wanted to do the fight or I didn’t or if it was too early. I didn’t even know. Then, I was like “OK, I’m going to do this and get it done.” After I lost the fight I was so bummed out. We had done everything to prepare for it. Thought I was ready for the fight, then came up short. Until I signed the Hermes fight, I was still bumming about (the fight) all the time. That was all I thought about. I fought since then and won that fight against Kyle Bradley, but I was always thinking “I lost the Florian fight, this sucks!” When (the UFC) offered the Hermes fight…I’m hearing it’s going to be a main event and..that whole ordeal was just getting ready for this fight. It’s my second chance.

PRO MMA: Matt Hughes said after he lost to B.J. Penn and GSP said this about losing to Hughes that “It was the best thing that ever happened” to them. Did you learn anything about yourself in that loss to Kenny Florian?
Lauzon: I learned a ton. I’m not going to say I felt invincible but I definitely felt like I was doing everything. I thought that I was definitely in great shape, which I still think I was in good shape, but I knew the altitude was going to be an issue and I was like..”Ah its not going to matter. I’m in great shape! Its not going to affect me.” Then it did. It’s easy to be confident going into a fight when everything going your way. Right off the bat, I’m a week away from the fight then I get to Colorado and I’m dying walking to the bathroom. It was getting to me a little bit. I think because of that…I think I did well in the first round and I didn’t expect to do so well. I was forcing things and rushing things. I think if I would have stayed calm I would have done a lot better. It taught me that things don’t have to be absolutely perfect in order to go out and do pretty well.

PRO MMA: Regardless of the outcome of the Hermes bout, is a fight with Kenny Florian something that you will be looking at in the future of your career?
Lauzon: I think I’m always going to be looking at a rematch with Kenny. He’s from Massachusetts, I’m from Massachusetts….we see all the same guys all the time. That’s always going to be one, more so than others, there have been fighters that I’ve lost to and I’m like “Lets get a rematch” but when its a guy that you see all the time and hear about all the time it is always fresh in your mind. I would love to get that one back

PRO MMA: This fight with Hermes, he has 11 submission victories you have 13. Do you see the fight going to the ground?
Lauzon: I’m not really sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the ground. I think, looking at me versus Hermes, I’m taller, I’m going to have the reach and throw straighter punches, but he’s got dynamite in his hands. He throws some looping punches, but you can see them coming a little bit. If he hits you…your in a lot trouble. We are both just as happy fighting on the ground as we are standing. I’m sure its going to be all over the place, you’ll see us slugging on the feet, trying to submit each other on the ground…I think the fight is going to be all over the place.

PRO MMA: Do you see yourself having an advantage in one particular area?
Lauzon: I think that I push the pace a little bit better. I think Hermes….he’s kinda little laid back about it. He’s pretty content to fight anywhere. If you wanna fight on the feet, he’ll fight you on the feet. If you wanna fight on the ground, he’ll fight you on the ground. I think he almost plays possum. When you start to get tired or when he sees an opening he comes at you at 90 miles an hour. Then he goes back to playing possum if he doesn’t get it. He’s finished a lot of guys like that. He knocked out Spencer Fisher, he arm locked Nate Diaz…he beat Jamie Varner like that. A lot of his fights have gone like that. He kind of goes in does whatever you want to do then..bam! Your in an arm lock or he hits you with an overhand. I don’t know, we will have to see how it goes.

PRO MMA: When you breakdown film on an opponent, do you learn more about your opponent from their losses or their victories?
Lauzon: I…I learn from both. I like to watch general behavior. If they think they are getting close to being finished, how do they react? One of the things St. Pierre says, during his interviews, he tries to see where people break. When some one loses, how soon can you see that the fight is not going their way? What frustrates them, things like that. I think that is huge. Knowing what they are thinking…not so much what they do but how they react and how they are thinking. You can tell when someone is confident, or scared or when their confidence is completely deflated. You’ve gotta watch for both; what’s gets them excited and what is going to break them down.

PRO MMA: Prior to fighting Sean Sherk, Herme’s fights have not gone to a decision in nearly two years. Now, his last three have all gone to a decision. Do you see this bout going to the cards?
Lauzon: I don’t see it going the distance. I never want to have a fight go the distance. I would rather go out and give it my all…if I burn out or finish the guy or get beat up… I don’t think people want to see two guys go through the motions for fifteen minutes. I think people want to see a definitive answer and which guy is better. They want to see someone get beat up, watch the ref pull someone off, see a guy give up. That’s the way I want all my fights to be, one way or the other. It’s all about winning, but for me…I would much rather fight my heart out and push with everything I can. I’m the guy when there is a minute left, I’ll go for arm locks from mount and jeopardize the fight to try and finish, rather than play it safe. I hate it when guys play it safe. I just think it is really boring.

PRO MMA: Does that affect your game when you face guys that play it safe? Do you get a little too aggressive or does that put you in the right zone to finish the fight?
Lauzon: If some one is playing it safe I think it makes it a little easier for me to go for things. If you fight someone who’s super aggressive, then you don’t want to give them any openings because they are going to come back at you hard. If someone wants to play it safe, I can spend the entire fight just going for stuff. I think that helps me a little bit.

PRO MMA: Hermes has seven losses on his record but only one has been by way of knockout and the rest all went to the judges. He hasn’t been stopped since March of 2005 almost four years to when you guys will be fighting. Are you going to be the second man to stop him?
Lauzon: I’m definitely training like I am going to be the man to stop him. I’m training my butt off. I want to stop him, nothing would make me happier. I have so much respect for him…he is great on his feet, great defense, almost no one hits him clean whatsoever. No one has ever submitted him. He is super tough. He looks like Mighty Mouse, he’s five foot six got the biggest chest, biggest arms. The guy is a tank. I’d love to go in and put a loss on his record with a submission or knockout.

PRO MMA: Is your size advantage going to play into this fight at all?
Lauzon: I think it will help. I think he is thicker than me but I definitely have the bigger frame. I think that I’m wider and taller. It will be interesting. I am definitely going to use my size to my advantage and keep my distance, things like that. Hopefully it will come into play and work out in my favor.

By: Matt De La Rosa

In part two of this exclusive interview, Joe discusses what it is like to train with his brother, Dan Lauzon, his take on the Chris Horodecki fight at Affliction and his prediction for how that fight will go down. Click HERE for part two of the interview.

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