Dan Hardy talks to Sherdog.com regarding the issue of American fans being "down" on U.K. fighters:
"I think all the British fighters will probably agree with me when I say I think that we feel we’re up against it as far as fan support goes," he said. "I think people expect less of us because we’re from the U.K., because they assume we don’t have the right kind of training and coaching in the U.K., which is why I spend so much time (in the U.S.)."
Hardy stays in the U.S. for months at a time studying from trainers like Freddie Roach and Eddie Bravo before traveling back to England and his Rough House team to share what he’s picked up.
"Everyone’s been down on the U.K. for a little while, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that the British fans are so vocal about the British fighters because it’s such a new thing for us," said Hardy. "We haven’t had any fighters that can compete at that level."
It's an interesting issue, and Dan Hardy surprises me a bit with his answer because I haven't heard other British fighters state their awareness of the real reason why some fans are down on British MMA fighters. While a lot of casual fans saw Michael Bisping's arrogance as a detractor on The Ultimate Fighter, there are plenty of fans out there that are reluctant to embrace British fighters due to the perceived skill gap. I would be one of them.
I've been watching British MMA for quite some time, and I had come to the conclusion, similar to what Hardy states in the article, that the training in the British scene isn't up to par with the type of training that American or Japanese fighters receive. The biggest difference is obviously the wrestling game. The U.S. not only has high school programs, but amateur collegiate programs littering the Midwest scene. It's become a staple within a MMA fighter's skill-set, and British fighters are at a disadvantage without heading out to different camps to become exposed to high-level wrestling skills.
While that's definitely a big problem, I also found that the early culture of MMA still resides within the scene in Britain. If we think back a decade, a lot of regional events and even battles in the UFC were reliant on the "slugfest", and British MMA is going through the same type of infancy stage in their own regional promotions. While there are legitimate fighters getting better in all aspects of the sport, regional promotions such as the now-defunct Cage Rage looked to brawlers for entertainment. Neil Grove, released by the UFC in May, was one of the bigger forces within the promotion because his style was fairly simple to understand... he wanted to knock you out.
Thankfully, the solution is presented by Hardy in the interview. Heading to different camps within the U.S. is something that is probably essential for British fighters looking to be successful, but Bisping also has the inside edge as well. Bringing over top-notch fighters from the U.S. to not only help him train, but help his teammates train as well is helpful. It'll also expose up-and-comers from Britain to the wrestling that they'll need to succeed. Brazilian jiu-jitsu has already made some real strides in the country, and we can see that from some of the current British UFC fighters already.
British MMA will continue to grow, but I'm still not too keen on the number of prospects coming out of the country that exude quality. It is improving though, but it's nice to see that the most successful British fighters truly see why some fans are reluctant to support them. It can only help them realize the type of training they need to succeed.