by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Just over a week out from his main event fight at the latest UFC Fight Night 17 event on Spike TV, Joe Lauzon got the news that his original opponent, Hermes Franca, had been forced out of their match-up with an injured knee. The news spread quickly from Franca who actually let the cat out of the bag on the Underground forum. Soon after, Lauzon was presented a new opponent in Jeremy Stephens, who had actually been helping Franca prepare for the fight in Florida.

The news broke and soon Lauzon and Franca were exchanging posts back and forth and the tone changed from respect to anger. While Lauzon admits he had admiration for Franca going into the bout, his behavior on the forum left a sour taste in his mouth.

“I wasn’t joking and I don’t think he was joking either. I have no idea what his deal was, but I wasn’t joking at all,” Lauzon said. “I had tons of respect for him, sending messages back and forth, MySpace whatever, just saying ‘good fight’ whatever. He was out in Hawaii a little bit after I was so we were talking about that, and I thought everything was cool.

“I was totally respectful in every single interview, nothing but good things to say, and out of nowhere he’s like, ‘Your brother sucks. I couldn’t wait to fight you. You’re so lucky.’ He’s the one that pulled out of the fight and just wants to sit there and talk trash.”

While now focused on the new opponent, Lauzon says there’s still unfinished business with Franca when he gets healthy.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if he would still like to fight Franca down the road. “Because before I wanted to fight Hermes cause he’s got a good name, it would be a good exciting fight, and everything else. Now it’s a little more personal.”

His new opponent, Jeremy Stephens, just so happens to have trained with Franca and his team in Florida to help him prepare for Lauzon. While not completely familiar with his name, the Massachusetts based fighter is aware of his abilities.

“I knew who he was, but I didn’t know him by name,” commented Lauzon. “I knew he fought Din Thomas, I knew he fought Cole (Miller), I knew he fought Spencer (Fisher), but when they told me Jeremy Stephens I was like ‘who’s that?’ But then it all clicked and I definitely know him a little bit.

“I definitely think it’s a good fight for me.”

Currently holding a 3-2 record in the UFC, Stephens is known as a heavy handed fighter who makes no secret about his gameplan in any fight.

“I definitely think he’s looking for the knockout. We’ll keep it on our feet and we’ll look for the takedown, but I don’t think we’re going to rush it,” said Lauzon. “I’m not going to come running out and dive for his ankles.”

The short notice is never ideal, but even Lauzon admits that it’s just part of the game you have to deal with and he’ll deal with this latest scenario, named Jeremy Stephens, on Saturday night.

“It’s one of those things you can’t do anything but deal with,” Lauzon stated. “I can’t be like ‘no, I’m only fighting Hermes.’ It’s just one of those things you can’t change, nothing I can do.”