Joe Lauzon admits that people may look at him in a negative light when it comes to topics such as fighter pay, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to see the competitors get a bigger piece of the pie.
Lauzon will return to the octagon for the first time since his October 2019 submission over Jonathan Pearce when he faces Donald Cerrone on May 7 at UFC 274.
While the topic of fighter pay and collective bargaining compared to other major sports has been a hotly discussed one over the past few years — especially following the sale of the UFC for $4.2 billion in 2016 — it has become much more prevalent as of late. UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and YouTuber turned boxer Jake Paul have been at the forefront of these recent discussions.
In Lauzon’s eyes, while it’s certainly great to call attention to these things, we are no closer to seeing these changes being made. When asked if there will ever be a day when the fighters come together, Lauzon is not confident it ever happens.
“I don’t think so,” Lauzon told MMA Fighting. “Francis Ngannou is fighting the UFC, but he’s not fighting to get the other fighters more money, he’s fighting to get himself more money. That’s just the way it goes. Francis Ngannou has been, ‘I have done this, I have the title, I want these things for me.’ He’s not saying he wants this for the other guys. It’s kind of a selfish stance when people take it on, they fight, and they argue, and it’s never, ‘Everyone needs to get paid more.’ There’s a couple of people who would do that, but it’s never the guys near the top. Generally, it’s the people that try to get up to the UFC, got to the UFC, but maybe they didn’t do well, and then on their way out, they’re complaining about it after the fact.
“The guys that have done very, very well, have generally not been those guys. A guy like Tito Ortiz: He was the champ for a long time, he was a great fighter. But Tito was never arguing for more money for the undercard fighters, he was always arguing to get more money for himself, and it’s always been that way. The guys that get to the top, they’re always fighting to get more money for themselves. They’re not gonna get a lot of support there. If they were arguing for the undercard fighters and trying to get more across the board, I think they would have a lot more support and a lot of people would kind of rally behind them.”
Lauzon was one of the few fighters on the roster openly positive about the UFC’s partnership with Reebok. His take was, in essence, if a group of people are attacking a company that is working with the UFC, when that deal ends, why would a different entity come in at the risk of a similar reaction?
Because of that, Lauzon feels as if he’s looked at as a fighter who doesn’t support his fellow athlete. That is not the case at all, according to Lauzon, who feels as he’s looking at things from a mature and realistic perspective.
“It’s always hard because I’m looked at as anti-fighter and pro-UFC because I think the UFC does a good job. I’ve never had a bad interaction with the UFC in regards to anything,” Lauzon said. “I’ve always had tons of respect for them, they’ve always been super respectful to me, everything’s always been great.
“Does everyone want to get paid more for their job? One-thousand percent. But I think that someone could be a very good fighter, they might be on an undercard and even though they might have a good skill set, a very good fighter, you’re worth what you can demand. You can have that great skill set and beat these other guys, but you cannot demand this money when there’s other people who would do the job for the same amount. How many people are going to tune in, how many people are buying ESPN+ or Fight Pass because so-and-so is fighting on an undercard? Not many, right? There’s probably a couple of friends who are gonna tune in, but there’s not a whole lot of demand there because it takes time to build a name.”
Prior to the victory over Pearce, Lauzon had lost his previous three bouts to Stevie Ray, Clay Guida, and Chris Gruetzemacher. Following the win, UFC president Dana White told reporters that the deal made behind the scenes for Lauzon to compete was that it would be his final fight — a point Lauzon has denied ever since. Lauzon said his approach was always to wait and see how that fight went before making any decisions.
Lauzon will be taking the same approach into his fight with Cerrone, and he hopes that if all goes well, that the UFC will show interest in having him back for another bout.
In terms of his overall relationship with the UFC, the Massachusetts native — who made his debut at UFC 63 in September 2006 — says it’s been a solid and reciprocal one. While he hopes someday the fighters get a bigger piece of the pie, Lauzon suggests that the approach to getting there will have to be a smart one.
“I always want the fighters to make more money, but at the same time you’ve got to keep in mind that the draw is generally the UFC brand,” Lauzon explained. “There’s been a lot of fighters who have gone elsewhere, and sometimes they say they’re making better money. Sometimes they say it’s not been as good, or it hasn’t been as polished, or this and that. There’s always gonna be pros and cons. For me, I’ve always had a great relationship with the UFC. They’ve always treated me super and I have nothing bad to say about them.
“I can totally understand how the UFC can be iron-fist when it comes to negotiations and stuff like that, but that’s their job. The fighters are gonna do the same thing, [they’re] gonna have a heavy hand on things too. Both sides are gonna negotiate and fight to the best of their ability — in the ring and in contract negotiations — and they’re gonna use whatever assets and tools they have. If you don’t want to fight with the UFC, I suggest you don’t fight with the UFC. If you’re not prepared to fight with the UFC, don’t fight the UFC, and I think that’s what it comes down to.
“If I have a little two-pound dog, and I have a 90-pound pitbull — which is the UFC — I would not encourage that two-pound dog to get that dog bone that you might be entitled to,” Lauzon continued. “Maybe you need to kind of understand what’s going on here and understand how it all is. I think a lot of fighters, a lot of people look at me like I’m anti-fighter, and I’m not anti-fighter. Of course, I want all the fighters to make more money. I would love for the UFC to do lifelong health insurance for anybody that’s had x number of fights — 10 fights, 12, 15, whatever it’s gonna be. I would love to have all that stuff. But if it doesn’t make sense, then it doesn’t make sense.
“There’s always gonna be headlines of fighters pushing back, whether it’s Mark Hunt, or whoever else pushing back on things. But that’s just the nature of it. I’m of the mindset that I’m not gonna pick a fight I don’t want to get into.”