As Joe Lauzon prepares to make the walk for his 28th UFC fight on Saturday, he’s seen plenty of changes with the promotion over the years but particularly since the new owners at Endeavor have taken over.
Now change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Lauzon admits it’s just different these days versus years past when he almost exclusively dealt with retired UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, who was the point man for virtually all athletes when it came to contracts, fight negotiations and any other issues that came up.
Silva was well known within the industry for his brutal honesty, which is an attribute that Lauzon absolutely loved, and it was a style he meshed well with while growing up in the UFC.
“I like dealing with Sean, it’s OK,” Lauzon said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Joe Silva was definitely better because the volume is different. Back when Joe Silva was doing it they’re were way less fights, way less cards. Now it’s a volume thing. Sean’s putting together so many fights per year where Joe Silva was putting together less.
“Joe Silva’s like if you’re life depended on it, you could call him and he would pick up. Like I could call him right now and he would pick up for sure. Haven’t talked to the guy in three years probably but if I called him right now, he would pick up. Some people are like that. Sean is not the best sometimes, it’s a little bit hard to get a hold of him but again it’s a volume thing. What he really needs is he needs an assistant or he needs help or they almost need a different matchmaker for every division or something.”
The numbers game can catch up to anybody but Lauzon also knows that fighters can make the matchmaker’s job that much more difficult, which is another reason he never likes to give them much grief.
“There’s so many fights going on and fighters are such divas,” Lauzon said. “Every single fighter, their next fight is the most important thing in their entire universe. For Sean, he’s making 12 fights on a card or six fights on a card, whatever it’s going to be, it’s the numbers thing.
“He’s trying to get matchups to happen and everyone else has to talk to their coaches, which I understand. I do the same. I have to talk to my coaches, talk to my people but some fighters are really, really difficult. I do not envy that position at all.”
Beyond dealing with the matchmakers, Lauzon knows that the environment with the business decisions being made at the UFC has also changed under the leadership of Endeavor versus when Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta controlled the company.
While both groups ended up making a lot of money with the UFC — the Fertitta’s cashed out after selling the promotion for just over $4 billion while the mixed martial arts organization has continued to serve as one of Endeavor’s most profitable entities — Lauzon knows the former owners had a style of their own when it came to taking riskier chances with no guarantees an idea might pay off.
“I’m going to overly blow this out of proportion but Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC, he’s a big fight fan, he basically gave Dana [White] free reign to do whatever he wanted,” Lauzon explained. “Joe Silva free reign to do whatever he wanted. They’d come with ‘hey, we’ve got this idea, it might not make the best business sense but we think it would be really cool’ and Lorenzo would be like ‘do it, whatever you guys want!’ It was Lorenzo’s kind of pet project. He ended up making some good money on it but initially he was just having fun with it, it wasn’t run like a super tight business. It was kind of his side hustle.
“Whereas now Endeavor owns it and Endeavor wants to make money. It’s very, very different. It’s by the book and it’s math and it’s numbers and things like that. Billionaire Lorenzo would be like ‘it would be awesome to do, it makes no sense whatsoever but it would be awesome so we’re going to do it.’ It’s different now. Of course, it’s going to change, it’s going to evolve.”
There are also a lot more employees working under the UFC umbrella doing various jobs that were previously handled by a smaller staff.
One person in particular who Lauzon definitely misses is former UFC event coordinator Burt Watson, who was essentially a jack-of-all trades within the promotion.
“Burt Watson left the UFC. They hired 10 guys to do his job,” Lauzon said. “It was awesome before, I had a great relationship with Burt. My coaches flew Burt out for my wedding. I f****** love Burt Watson. So anything I need, I’d be like Burt, what’s going on with this?”
If it sounds like Lauzon is complaining, that’s certainly not the case because there’s nothing wrong with the UFC making changes in order to grow bigger and as a business owner, the 37-year-old lightweight understands that concept all too well.
He also knows growth comes with benefits to the fighters, which is something that dramatically affected his bottom line from the first time he competed in the UFC back in 2006.
“My first fight in the UFC with Jens Pulver, I fought for [$3,000] and [$3,000],” Lauzon said. “Now it’s like coming to the UFC it’s like [$12,000] and [$12,000] starting out. So it’s gone up quite a bit. It’s different with sponsors and everything else. The UFC is this big media powerhouse really.
“Of course, it’s changed, it’s different. I think it would be bad if it didn’t change. If it didn’t continue to grow, didn’t continue to evolve, it wouldn’t be where it’s at today.”