Guest post by Stephie "Crooklyn" Daniels. You can follow Crooklyn on Twitter at CrooklynMMA.
Styles make fights. The phrase may be an overused cliché, but it's meaning is the perfect device to describe the upcoming UFC 146 bout between Duane "Bang" Ludwig and Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy. The formula is relatively simple. Take two guys known for their stand-up skills, and put them in a cage for 15 minutes of what should be a striking extravaganza. Both men are coming off losses (with Hardy having not recorded a win since the latter part of 2009, and Ludwig coming off a disappointing loss to Josh Neer), which creates an almost palpable sense of urgency around this bout. The fact that either man has the capacity to render their opponent unconscious makes the deciding factor in this fight come down to who lands the big bomb first. "Bang" feels that this fight will be his opportunity to get back in the winner's circle, and he hopes to do so in exciting fashion.
SD: Do you feel like you were hand selected for Hardy because you're not a wrestler?
DL: I think I was selected for this fight more from a fan perspective, because you know it's going to be a good fight. I think the fight was set up stylistically for the fans, but not so much so that Dan could get a win. It's definitely a safer bet for Dan, rather than a wrestler who can hold him down. I know he's coming off a four fight losing streak, but they were all good, exciting fights. He just got out-wrestled with St. Pierre, he got caught by Condit, which could have happened to anyone, again outwrestled with Anthony Johnson, and he had a great fight with Chris Lytle where he just got caught in the end. The wrestlers were coming in to make it a boring fight, but that's the name of the game. That's MMA. If you're the better wrestler, you dictate where the fight goes.
SD: Do you feel that people may be underestimating your ground skills?
DL: Yes, definitely. I do it as well, because with most people, they're much better in the gym than they are in the cage. It's just that my mindset is going in there and wanting to punch somebody in the face, and actually not make it a mixed martial arts fight, so I'm still learning to keep it in that gray area where it's a mixed martial arts fight, and not just a stand-up war. I'm way better in the gym with my wrestling and my jiujitsu than I show in my fights, but hopefully the day will come where I can show that I'm pretty good on the ground.
SD: Hardy has stated that he feels he's recovered that fire and anger that he needs to win fights. Do you feel the friendly vibes the two of you have now will eventually degrade into a smack talk fest, leading up to your fight?
DL: I hope not, because I'm a fan of Dan Hardy. I know he's a fan of me, as well. There's no hard feelings between us. This is business. I didn't ask for this fight, but it is a good match-up stylistically. If it does get to that point, then so be it. I don't really care too much. I just focus on what I can control, so if it does get to that point, I will come back with some smart ass things that I do, but hopefully it won't come to that. There's a mutual respect there, for sure. I hope he does show up with that passion, fire and grit. I've always thought he's shown up to fight, and if he's got more to add to that, it'll be even better for this fight.
SD: Where do you feel you went wrong in your fight with Josh Neer?
DL: I should have defended the takedown a little bit more. I just got greedy and kept punching. When he got the single leg up against the cage, well, he should've never been able to get my leg against the cage. I should have defended that, but I just kept punching him. I got the neck surgery after the Sadollah fight, and during the whole training camp for Neer, I didn't work on defending the guillotine because I had to keep my neck healthy. It created a bad habit and a delayed reaction when he went for my neck. That's his move, though, and that's the way it goes. He was the better man that night.
SD: How big a factor is reviewing your opponent's fight tapes?
DL: I focus on my own gameplan, for the most part, but I do watch some fight tapes, because there's a lot of little idiosyncrasies that people do that they're not even aware of. How they react in a pressure situation or their reactions to certain moves. If it comes to me having to change my whole gameplan, just to capitalize on his mistakes, I won't do that.
SD: With a win against Hardy, you will effectively be giving him his pink slip. Does that bother you, or weigh on your conscience at all?
DL: Yes and no. Obviously, I want to have the win for myself. I would hope the scenario would be that if I do win, ZUFFA would keep him around in some capacity, maybe move him to Strikeforce, if they don't keep him under the UFC banner. He always comes to fight, he's got great marketability, and he talks well on the camera. Everything is good about him. He's just had a run of bad luck. Hopefully they keep him around because it would definitely bother me if he gets released completely.
SD: Over the last couple years, and especially now that the UFC has forged a deal with FOX, we've seen the exit of many sponsors, either due to inability to meet the sponsor tax, or because they're deemed ineligible by the UFC for whatever reason. Has it been difficult to acquire sponsors in light of this?
DL: I don't think it's too difficult. The UFC has a list of approved sponsors, so you just go to those sponsors and make a request. It's just the easier route to go after the companies that are already cleared by the UFC. It doesn't really allow for the small guy, or even the middle class guy to get in, because they can't pay the fee, but it does open the door for the bigger companies who can do that. It's kind of a Catch 22.
SD: Some management teams have sought outside endorsement deals over logo placement in the octagon for their fighter's sponsor deals. Is this something you have looked at or currently have in place?
DL: I have deals like that in place because of the social media explosion with Twitter and Facebook. I work with a few companies that aren't allowed by the UFC, like Vega (vegan based supplement company). There's a few companies I work with to do promotions, because being a UFC fighter still has some value to them that doesn't revolve around logo placement. I like to work with companies with products that I actually use, also. It makes it an easy sell for me. I used to work with TapouT, but when they sold to ABG, they kicked me off the sponsorship list. I thought that was kind of a weird deal, because we had been together for a long time, but that's when it comes down to being just business. Now I'm with Affliction, and they're good people, so that worked out well in the end.
SD: With your promotion of a vegan based supplement company, are you currently or do you intend to go vegan?
DL: I'm not vegan. I eat chicken and fish. I eat things that I feel I could kill. I don't feel like I could kill a cow or a lamb or a deer or anything. I can definitely fish, even though I don't. I haven't killed a chicken, but I'm pretty sure I could. Turkey is still questionable. Things that have a conscience, and possibly a soul, I have a hard time eating. If they're capable of interacting with humans, I don't want to eat them.
SD: What's your five year plan?
DL: If I can, I'd like to continue fighting. It's my passion. It gives me life. The plan after, is to have my own gym and affiliate schools. I know too much not to teach, and pass on my knowledge. The prime time for an MMA fighter is from 30-35. I'm 33, and I'm pretty healthy, and without many nagging injuries, so as long as my passion and fire is there, I'll continue to keep fighting as long as I can.
After the interview, I received a few texts from Duane, and he asked that I mention a few things. The first is that GLCDirect.com helped him tremendously with his leg injury, as they manufacture glucosamine and chondroitin supplements that he took during his recovery period. The second is that the NYBullyCrew.org helps in the rescue and sheltering of pitbulls and other canines, so please check them out. The last thing is that he's a muscle car aficionado, and would like to show off a few of his prized possessions. Check out the included pics of his cars and the pitbull he recently rescued: