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UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon returns to octagon at TD Garden

Joe Lauzon faces Michael Johnson Saturday as the UFC-Fox Sports 1 partnership begins.

josh hedges/zuffa llc via getty images

Joe Lauzon faces Michael Johnson Saturday as the UFC-Fox Sports 1 partnership begins.

EASTON — There are several ways to describe UFC lightweight fighter Joe Lauzon. If you ask those around him, you will hear terms such as “popular,” “tough,” “determined,” and “relentless.”

But ask Lauzon how he would describe himself and you get a very different answer.

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“I am openly a computer nerd,’’ he said.

A perfect day for the Bridgewater resident, who was born in Brockton and raised in East Bridgewater, would be to lock himself in a room and play video games all day long.

“I’m definitely an introvert,’’ said Lauzon, 29. “People think it is crazy because I talk to fans and do interviews, but I’m used to it now. Nothing makes me happier than hiding in my basement and playing X-Box or watching TV or playing on my laptop, completely shut off from the rest of the world.’’

On Saturday night, though, Lauzon will be a center of attention, as the favorite son once again fights at TD Garden, this time taking on fellow 155-pounder Michael Johnson (13-8-0) as part of UFC’s Fight Night 26, an event that launches a partnership with Fox Sports 1.

Lauzon (22-8-0) fought in UFC’s inaugural pay-per-view event in Boston on Aug. 28, 2010, when he made short work of Gabe Ruediger with a victory via armbar just 2 minutes and 1 second into the first round, earning him Submission of the Night honors.

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It was one of 12 financial bonuses Lauzon has earned in his career, tying him for most all-time with UFC legend Anderson Silva.

“This kid has so many bonuses, it’s unbelievable,’’ said UFC president Dana White. “When you put together a bonus structure for people, that’s what that kid was built for. He was built for a bonus structure because he goes in and he performs.’’

Lauzon’s mixed martial arts career started completely by accident. He had a trampoline in his backyard as a teenager and would invite his friends over to test out their moves.

“We were actively trying to power-bomb the other guy,’’ said Lauzon. “They were fighting back and resisting. It basically turned into a jiu jitsu match.

“Just by pure luck, I went to East Bridgewater High School. It was the start of the MCAS testing. The first time we did it, our school bombed on it really bad. The second year, the teachers taught to the test, so we jumped a ton. We improved so much, we got a bunch of assemblies as a reward.’’

One of them was run by Joe Pomfret, who went on to become Lauzon’s business partner in their spacious new MMA gym in Easton.

“He did a jiu jitsu demonstration,’’ said Lauzon. “I was poking my buddies, saying, ‘This is what we do on the trampoline.’ They signed up [for MMA classes] and started doing the moves on me.

“I’m super competitive — I can’t let anyone have it over on me — so I had to start doing it, too, and I took to it like a fish to water.’’

Lauzon’s long-term plan was to use his computer science degree from Wentworth Institute of Technology. But an appearance on the TV reality show “The Ultimate Fighter’’ changed that.

He saw older fighters who had started late hanging on, and he didn’t want to give up his chance.

“I was, like, 21 or 22, and I thought, ‘I’ve got the time, I’ve got the skills, I want to focus on this 100 percent,’ ” he said. “If I tried to do both [train and work], I was going to get hurt in a fight.’’

So he left Charles River Analytics in Cambridge, where he ran the company network while still in college. He said having a math brain has altered how he thinks.

“[Going to Wentworth] completely changed the way I processed things, the way I break things down,’’ he said. “A computer doesn’t count 1-2-3, it counts 0-1-2. I took a whole bunch of database classes. It’s kind of like how I organize my day. It’s kind of the same as jiu jitsu. It’s helpful.”

He gets his discipline from his father, Joe Sr., who was not a fan of procrastination.

“My dad was always, ‘Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today,’ and ‘Do it the right way the first time,’ ” he said. “I feel like that kind of ingrained discipline right off the bat.’’

Exciting to watch

What makes Lauzon a fan favorite is his aggressive style. He goes for it from the first second to the end of every fight.

“He’s very exciting,’’ said White. “He’s not one of the top five ranked guys in the world, but he has a huge fan base all over the world, not just in Boston because of the type of fighter he is. This kid is fun, exciting, and he is a warrior.’’

Chael Sonnen, who will fight in Saturday’s main event against Mauricio Rua, calls Lauzon “Mr. Reliable.’’

“He’s awesome, he’s fun to watch,’’ said Sonnen. “Any time he fights, you’re in for a treat. He’s very popular. If you want to put a good fight on, you put him on the card. He’ll deliver.’’

Former UFC fighter Kenny Florian, now a UFC TV commentator, said Lauzon has honed his skills since Florian beat him in a lightweight matchup on April 2, 2008, in Fight Night 13.

“You knew he was one of the best 155-pounders in the world for the first five or 10 minutes,’’ said Florian. “He was an animal. You really had to be very careful.

“He is developing his game now, where he is dangerous for every minute of every round now. He’s improved his cardio, he’s improved his pacing. He’s smarter and a little wiser now that he’s gotten older.

“As a fan, you want to see Joe Lauzon fight, because he’s exciting as hell, always looking for the finish.’’

Lauzon is wearing many hats these days. In addition to training and running the gym, he and his fiancée, Katelyn Silva, are preparing for the birth of their first child (a son), in February.

But the immediate future is focusing on Johnson, who is a lefthander.

“It’s kind of tough to game plan when we feel we’re better everywhere, but we’re doing a good job to constantly improve,’’ said Lauzon. “He’s a southpaw, which is a big thing, so all the footwork and all that kind of stuff is all different. He likes to throw a couple of punches and run, throw a couple of punches and run. I definitely feel it’s a good matchup for us.’’

He would be thrilled to pass Anderson Silva and become the sole bonus leader in front of family and friends.

“I love the fact that I’m tied with Anderson Silva for the lead,’’ he said. “It’s awesome. People know I always go out and put on good, exciting fights. I always try to finish in spectacular fashion. Even if I didn’t have those bonuses, I would still have those kinds of fights, but it’s nice getting the recognition for it that I’m tied with a legend, probably the greatest of all time.’’

Crowd behind him

As much as fans enjoy the night of the fight, Lauzon said there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into getting there.

“I am training for 12 weeks, 15 hours a week, just for this particular fight for 15 minutes [over three rounds],’’ said Lauzon. “When you break it down like that, there is a lot that goes into that 15 minutes.

“It can go awesome, it can go terrible. I will be relieved when the fight is over, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.’’

And he is prepared for the craziness that will accompany his walk out to the octagon Saturday night.

“When I fought here last time, it was unbelievable,’’ he said. “The crowd reaction was crazy. I had my corner [people] 6 inches from my ear screaming and I couldn’t hear a word. It’s awesome. I love all the support.

“In Vegas, people who are Joe Lauzon fans are going to cheer their heads off or people who maybe don’t know me are going to cheer anyways. Here in Boston, every single person is going to be screaming for me. So it’s going to be unbelievable.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.

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