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Controversy Looms Between Lauzon, Sotiropoulos Over Disputed Fight Gear

DETROIT -- On at least one thing, UFC 123 foes Joe Lauzon and George Sotiropoulos agree: their respect for each other as worthy adversaries.

On another subject, their views couldn't be more different. Lauzon takes issue with Sotiropoulos' fight gear, which features fight shorts, compression shorts, knee sleeves and ankle sleeves, leaving little of his legs exposed.

Lauzon effectively feels that Sotiropoulos is flouting a loophole in the rules prohibiting grappling pants; Sotiropoulos says he's doing nothing wrong and that many others have used the same equipment before him.

Lauzon's concern is that Sotiropoulos' fight gear provides extra grip to aid in submission tries.

"I've asked the commission what my choices are, if I can even stop him from wearing it or not," said Lauzon. "In the past, all the commissions I've dealt with, it's always been OK for them to wear something as long as the opponent agreed. If they agreed, it's all fair. People say I'm calling him a cheater? I'm not. It's a thing where he was given a choice, he decided to wear it and the opponent could have stopped him. If the opponent didn't want to stop him, that's fine. But if I choose to stop him, I will if I can."

"It's well within the rules what I'm doing," Sotiropoulos later said. "Lots of fighters have done it. Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Frank Mir, Tim Sylvia, just to name a few. It's well within the rules what I'm doing. It gives both fighters some kind of an advantage. It gives him grip and it gives me more grip. That's part of the reality of wearing any sort of fabric on your body. Does it give me any advantage over my opponent? No, it gives us equal advantage. It gives us both a level playing field and that's really the bottom line."

Lauzon (19-5) said he hasn't come to a decision yet on what he exactly he will challenge in Sotiropoulos' set-up, but said he found it hard to believe the fast-rising lightweight contender had a legimitate use for some of the equipment.

"I don't think he's wearing them because he has bad knees and bad ankles," Lauzon said. "I think he's wearing them because he plays a lot of high rubber guard and I think it helps decrease slipping. It definitely does, so if I can take away that advantage, then I will."

Sotiropoulos said he was generally unconcerned with the debate as well as what the commission will eventually decide.

Though he's been wearing the same set of sleeves and pads for much of his UFC career, more attention has been paid as he's moved up the lightweight ladder.

"Absolutely, it's definitely a compliment and a credit to what I'm doing and the progress I'm making," he said.

Sotiropoulos said that Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Stevenson both brought his equipment after their respective fights against him, but that no one has previously requested he not be allowed to wear it, and that Lauzon would be the first if he follows through on his protest.

"It won't affect me in any way," he said. "I'm prepared and it's really irrelevant to me."

Lauzon's not buying it, saying that the reasoning given by Sotiropoulos and his team for its usage prove that it's at least some advantage, and one that could be the difference in a close fight.

"The only people who I've heard say it's a disadvantage is his corner," said Lauzon. "So if it's such a disadvantage, why are you doing it? It's an advantage. That's why he does it and that's why they argue it so hard."

By fight time though, all that will matter is that Sotiropoulos has a chance to go to 7-0 in the UFC (he's 13-2 overall) while Lauzon has the opportunity to make his own impression with a win over a fighter who has run through respected veterans Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Stevenson consecutively.

"I believe my entire game is a class above Joe's," Sotiropoulos said. "But you know what? It comes down to the fight. It's who gets off first and who imposes their game. Things like pressure and combat, they're not technical elements, they're more characteristics of a fight, and it's how you deal with those under the pressure of a fight. I believe I do well with those and I think he does as well, so let's see what happens when we're both in the fire."

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