This paper presents a methodology for the compensation of nonlinear friction in a robot joint structure based on a fuzzy local modeling technique. To enhance the tracking performance of the robot joint, a dynamic model is derived from the local physical properties of friction. The model is the basis of a precompensator taking into account the dynamics of the overall corrected system by means of a minor loop. The proposed structure does not claim to faithfully reproduce complex phenomena driven by friction. However, the linearity of the local models simplifies the design and implementation of the observer, and its estimation capabilities are improved by the nonlinear integral gain. The controller can then be robustly synthesized using linear matrix inequalities to cancel the effects of inexact friction compensation. Experimental tests conducted on a robot joint with a high level of friction demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed fuzzy observer-based control strategy for tracking system trajectories when operating in zero-velocity regions and during motion reversals.