With a defiant sneer and Thompson sub-machine gun rapid-fire trash talk, Dan Hardy's punk rock persona invokes the spirited rebellion of U.K. counter culture. A hooligan aura blended with a flare for mischief is the image of Hardy heavily promoted by the UFC as the organization continues to expand the British fan base.
While Hardy's pre-fight build up and exciting style certainly demands attention, the working class kid from Nottingham is slow to reveal the true mixed martial artist the fans may not recognize. While the first part of the interview focused primarily on the past, the second part of the interview looked ahead to what may come down the road. Hardy shared his insight on contemporary issues in mixed martial arts in addition to giving his analysis on some of the key matchups that will determine the status quo of the UFC welterweight division.
At the present time in MMA one of the biggest threats looming over the sport is the recent trend of fighting not to lose. Not surprisingly, Hardy has an opinion.
"I think it's important that everyone has a stance on the subject because it is an important factor at this moment in our sport," Hardy stated. "It is going to make or break MMA at the end of the day. People are getting in there to win the fight, please the judges and they are not doing it for the love of the fight. I think it shows in their performance and the fans can see it. I don't feel they are getting their money's worth when they are watching the fights. People want to see the fighters giving it everything they've got. I do that naturally because I'm in there to have fun. Winning is always the priority but I'm never going to sacrifice having a fun fight for the sake of winning. I think the fans appreciate it and I think that there are a lot of fighters that need to realize that it is our responsibility because those people are paying a lot of money for their tickets."
One of the most criticized fighters in the sport also happens to be the one who is considered by most to be the pound for pound best in welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Hardy faced St. Pierre earlier in the year at UFC 111 and while Hardy worked diligently to bait GSP into exchanging on his feet, St. Pierre worked a game plan that neutralized Hardy for the entire five round affair. With the "safe fighting" debate still on the table I asked Hardy if he felt the criticism often thrown at St. Pierre was just.
"I don't know...it's difficult," Hardy replied. "It's difficult to judge sometimes between a guy who is trying to finish the fight and one who is out there simply to please the judges. In the fight with GSP it felt like I was under pressure for the entire 25 minutes. It was clear that GSP didn't want to stand and kickbox and that's fair enough. That is his prerogative and that's why he is the champion. Not only is he very good at what he does but he also knows how to win fights. I can't take anything away from him for that but at the same time it is not the way I would choose to fight. Then again I can't wrestle for shit and I'm not a blackbelt. That is partly the reason I suppose. I know I have a good left hook and I rely on that most of the time."
During the Spike TV aired "Primetime" special that tracked Hardy and St. Pierre as they prepared for their title fight MMA fans were given a glimpse of a different side of Dan Hardy. While the promotion posters and pay per view trailers flashed a gritty British power puncher the weekly episodes showed Dan Hardy as a young martial artists attempting to find his way in the world. Images can often be misleading and I asked Hardy to share some of the attributes that he feels gets lost in shuffle.
"I've been doing martial arts since I was six," he stated. "My interest in martial arts has always been based on improvement and testing myself. My image is kind of misleading to a lot of people. Some think that I'm just a loudmouth that likes to throw punches but I've been studying martial arts constantly for 22 years. It's something that I have dedicated my life to and there is no doubt that I would like to continue to do it for the rest of my life as well. The red mohawk and tattoos might be a little misleading but it is part of the reason I have gone back to working the gi...just to get back to being a martial artist."
More from Dan Hardy after the jump.
As Hardy finished his statement in regards to his personal motivation in mixed martial arts, I took the opportunity to investigate a little known detail about one of his personal habits. After the initial shock faded he graciously confirmed and explained why he still carries his mouthpiece in his pocket on a daily basis.
"That is true," Hardy laughed. "I've always got at least one on me. I used to go to different shows around the U.K. and around Europe to corner my teammates and there were a lot of opportunities. Fighters were needed at the last minute because someone had pulled out or not made weight so I always brought my mouthpiece with me in case I could get a fight out of the weekend. A mouthpiece is the one piece of equipment you can't get straight away. I could buy everything else but a mouthpiece would take time to make so I just always carried it just in case a fight every came up. Obviously now it's different with the UFC because I'm contracted with them but it kind of became like a second nature type of thing just to throw it in my pocket when I leave the house. Car keys, watch, phone, mouthpiece and I'm off."
In March of this year Dan Hardy fought for the UFC welterweight title and while some MMA fans and critics disputed whether he had earned the spot or been given the matchup to further promote the organization in the U.K...all that matters to Hardy is once again returning for his chance at the gold. With two key matchups approaching that will greatly impact the landscape of his division, I asked Hardy to give his analysis on the upcoming bouts starting with champion Georges St. Pierre and number one contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 124.
"I certainly think it will be closer than the last fight," Hardy explained. "I won't be surprised if it is a split-decision to be honest. I think Koscheck will be able to stuff some of his takedowns and force him to kickbox for awhile which will be interesting because if they are trading punches it can go either way. Both can throw a decent punch but neither can take a decent punch so it will be interesting to see what happens. That is a game of roulette right there. I do see GSP getting the fight to the ground at some point and I feel that he will be able to dominate a lot of the fight through grappling. I see GSP taking it by split-decision. It's going to be quite lackluster for some rounds but it should get interesting because it's a technical matchup."
Two and a half months after GSP and Koscheck determine the fate of the welterweight title perennial contender Jon Fitch will face former two-divisional champion B.J. Penn in Sydney Australia. Fitch has been knocking at the door of another title shot for some time now and Penn, who is coming off a 21 second destruction of UFC Hall of Fame fighter Matt Hughes, has title aspirations of his own at 170 lbs.
"I enjoy watching Jon Fitch's fights," Hardy stated. "I know a lot of the fans get on him for not being as entertaining as he could be but I look at it from a student point of view and I can learn a lot from him. I think this is the fight where Jon Fitch can really prove himself to the fans. I think he's going to be ready and determined but having said that I think B.J. looked amazing in his last fight. If B.J. continues with the aggressive style he came at Matt Hughes with then it will be a tough fight for Jon Fitch. At the same time Jon Fitch knows if he doesn't beat B.J. then he is never going to see the title again. It's a tough fight to call but I would like to see Jon Fitch do well in that fight because I think he deserves it."
While 2010 had the potential to be a banner year for Hardy instead it will come to a close seeing him take losses in back to back outings. In the first fight it was a difference in skill that determined the outcome and in the second bout it was a dangerous formula of cockiness and oversight that proved to be his undoing. Hardy has stated that he knows how far he has to go and with confirmation that he will be joining heavyweight grappling machine Roy Nelson in Vegas, the growth of Hardy's fight game should be interesting to watch. Underneath all of the personality and clever banter lies a tireless heart that refuses to quit but the one thing Dan Hardy knows above all else is that the motivation to work his way back up the ladder would not be possible if it weren't for his fans.
"I really want to say thank you to my fans for the support," Hardy expressed. "Especially the support over the last two fights. It has been great. That is what keeps me going. It's hard to get up and go to the gym when you have no support and just knowing the fans are there makes things much easier. If fans want to keep up with me my website is www.danhardymma.com. Pretty much everything is available there. I have three facebook accounts fans can get to me through and I'm on twitter @danhardymma. Everyone should have me on twitter!"
With the interview coming to a close I took the final moment to ask Hardy about another tidbit of information that I had picked up from watching his Twitter account. If he planned to start training in Vegas at the start of 2011 was their any chance that a Hardy and Nelson team would eventually surface?
"Hawk and Mullet," Hardy replied. "That's what it is for sure."