UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon. AP Photo/Gregory Payan

'Conor is doing a great job of promoting fights and we're all benefitting'

Joe Lauzon looks ahead to Aldo versus McGregor, as well as his own fight tonight against Evan Dunham.

– Paul Dollery reports from Las Vegas

IN MOST OTHER UFC fight weeks, fans would have been hearing a lot more about Joe Lauzon than they have in the past few days.

One of the most popular fighters in the game, having won bonuses in 12 of his 19 UFC bouts to date, Lauzon takes on Evan Dunham tonight at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale.

It’s the second of three events in as many nights for the organisation here in Las Vegas. The unprecedented run of back-to-back shows culminates tomorrow evening with Conor McGregor’s featherweight title unification bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 194.

There are 68 fighters competing this week, and with one of them being the biggest male star in the sport currently, even middleweight champion Chris Weidman has been living off scraps when it comes to publicity.

That’s no issue for Lauzon, however. As a fighter who has never courted controversy or the spotlight during his nine-year UFC tenure, he won’t be taking a leaf out of McGregor’s book of fight promotion. Nevertheless, Lauzon acknowledges and has respect for the Irish fighter’s success in that aspect of the business.

“I don’t think anybody works harder than Conor when it comes to promoting fights. I understand exactly what he’s doing. He’s selling fights and he’s exciting. People want to watch Conor, whether they want to see him get his ass kicked or if they want him to win. He’s doing a really, really good job,” Lauzon told The42.

“It’s never been my style. Personally I prefer to be more respectful. But you know what? I know that Conor is making a lot more money than I’m making, so maybe he’s got the right idea. Some fighters don’t like what he’s doing, some of them are a little jealous, but he’s doing a great job and we’re all benefitting from it.”

Sport - UFC - Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor Press Conference - Dublin Convention Centre UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor. PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

His sole focus right now is tonight’s meeting with Evan Dunham, but Lauzon is looking forward to being a spectator when McGregor and Aldo finally settle their differences. It’s a difficult fight to call, the Boston native says. If the Brazilian is to emerge victorious, taking the fight to the ground will probably be the wisest course of action.

“I think it’s going to be a really awesome fight,” said Lauzon, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who has taken 18 of his 25 professional wins via submission.

“If Aldo is going to fight a smart fight, I think he’ll probably take Conor down and exploit the wrestling advantage he has; use his jiu-jitsu and do a good job. Aldo is great on the ground. Conor is pretty good too but I think Aldo is better. Conor, on the other hand, is so long and lanky, and he’s going to give Aldo some trouble.

“I think Conor has gotten in his ear so much and driven him so crazy, Aldo is probably not thinking about the most efficient way to win. He’ll want to go out and crush him, and that could be to his detriment.”

So if Aldo tries to beat McGregor by staying on his feet and it backfires, he’ll only have himself to blame for not shooting for a takedown as soon as an opportunity presents itself?

Lauzon: “It’s always easier said than done. I’m sure Conor knows that taking the fight to the ground will be Aldo’s best way to win, so he’s probably been working on uppercuts, knees and front-kicks to combat that.

“Conor brings so many interesting attacks that it makes it difficult to come up with a simple game-plan. But I’m sure if Aldo tries to stand and bang with him, he’ll end up kicking himself after the fact if he loses.

“But no matter what happens, it’s going to be really, really exciting. If Conor wins, he’ll have backed up everything he’s been saying. If Aldo wins, it’s going to be interesting to see how Conor reacts and what he’ll say afterwards. I’m pumped for the fight.”

UFC Chicago Mixed Martial Arts Joe Lauzon en route to victory against Takanori Gomi. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

As for his own bout, Lauzon admits that BJJ black belt Evan Dunham is an opponent he knows plenty about. The 31-year-old studied Dunham’s 2011 loss to Melvin Guillard closely before he faced Guillard himself later that year.

“He’s a guy I’ve always paid attention to,” Lauzon said. “He’s always in exciting fights and he’s got a good skill-set. When he fought Melvin Guillard, I watched that fight quite a few times when I was getting ready to fight Melvin.

“I kind of figured that Evan and I are very similar skill-wise, so he was almost like the practice run for me leading into that fight. We took some things from it and got some good information from it. But yeah, he’s a guy I’ve been paying attention to for a long time.”

After his first-round TKO of Takanori Gomi in July, Lauzon is aiming to seal consecutive wins tonight at The Cosmopolitan. If he’s to push himself into the top 15 rankings at lightweight, Lauzon knows that he needs to put a consistent run of victories together, having not won three in a row since he started his career with the UFC back in 2006.

“I try not to get caught up in talking about title shots and stuff like that. There have been so many guys who have been ranked in the top two or three for so long and they never got a shot, or they may get injured or something like that.

“Everything is so uncertain. One fight can change everything so I’m just going to deal with Evan Dunham for now and then we’ll go from there. The UFC is coming to Boston, my hometown, in January, so if I come out of this fight okay then maybe I can step in for something there. But I try to never look past the guy in front of me.”

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