UFC On Fuel TV 5 is just two weeks away and will mark the UFC's return to England since November of last year. There are plenty of good match-ups on the card, and the co-main event of Dan Hardy vs. Amir Sadollah could be the one British and American fans alike, may be just as anxious to see as the main event, itself. I recently spoke to Dan and got his thoughts on his upcoming bout, as well as some of MMA's most talked about topics. This is the conclusion of my two part interview with Mr. Hardy. If you missed the first half, you can find it here: Dan Hardy: Part I
Stephie Daniels: You're headed back to your home country to fight again. Do you feel that you get a lot more fan support there, or is it sort of even, because you have a pretty big American fanbase, as well?
Dan Hardy: To be honest, I have good support wherever. I think the intensity of the support is going to be higher in this fight because we haven't had the UFC in the UK for almost a year, so not only are the fans looking forward to seeing the UK fighters, they're also looking forward to being able to go to a live UFC event.
Stephie Daniels: Does it mean a little bit more to you to go back to the UK, coming off such an impressive win?
Dan Hardy: Yeah, for sure, because the last time I fought in the UK, it wasn't a good night for me. I always have a lot of hopes riding on my shoulders, and unfortunately, it just didn't come together for me that night. After my last performance, you can see that I'm back on good form, and I'm motivated and I'm working constantly on improving my skillset. I feel like I've progressed so much since I was there the last time, and I'm excited to go back, and I think a lot of people are going to be just as excited to see me fight again.
Stephie Daniels: You've been living in Las Vegas for well over a year now, and training with same people out of the same gym. Do you feel like you've established a comfortable rhythm there, at this point?
Dan Hardy: Oh yeah, definitely. Everything has just continued to move forward. I took a couple of weeks off after my last fight to travel a little bit, but as soon as I came back, I was straight back in the gym. I never take more than a couple of days off now, and I keep my weight off and stay in shape. There's not been the amount of hard work to do to prepare for this fight, because I've maintained my conditioning from the last training camp. It's been a lot more enjoyable, because now I can focus more on improving technically, and not have to worry about those extra sessions to get the weight off.
Stephie Daniels: You had a bumpy road for a while, then you broke the cycle with your knockout win over Duane Ludwig. Do you feel more pressure to win this fight, to keep the streak going?
Dan Hardy: Absolutely. It would almost invalidate the last win if this next one didn't go my way, particularly with it being in my home town. I have a lot of good memories from fights in my home town, and this one will be the biggest and best one of all. This is going to be the most important win for my career. I really need to perform, not only to show that I can win again, but that I can win impressively, as well. I need to show that I'm still moving forward, and that I still have a place in the division.
Stephie Daniels: What are your overall thoughts on this fight, and Amir, in general?
Dan Hardy: He's a tough, durable guy, and that's the first thing I always say about him when people ask. He will be there till the end of the fight unless you find a way to put him out. He will push the pace and make you work. The times he's winning fights is because he's wearing people down, and basically exhausting them. It's fine for him, but I wouldn't want to be known for being tough and durable. I want to be known for being sharp and vicious and technical. He's good and straightforward, and there's nothing really fancy about his style. He's not overly athletic or overly big and strong for the weight class. He's not overly fast. He's just one of those guys you've got to take very seriously and be aware of all the time. If you don't, you'll find yourself in the third round, running out of gas while he's still walking forward, throwing punches.
To be honest, particularly the way this training camp has gone, I'm not going to get tired in 15 minutes. There's just no way it's going to happen. I could do 25 minutes and still run five miles at the end of it. I'm in awesome shape and my weight is down. My basic approach going into this was to look at what advantages he's got, and nullify them with hard work and training. As far as experience, technical ability and athletic ability, I've got him beat on all fronts. I think the only way I can lose this fight is if I don't come prepared to go for the full 15 minutes and work hard. I've never had a fight where I've not worked hard. A lot of times, I've worked too hard. Now, I have coaches that are looking after me, to make sure I'm not doing that. I'm just in the best place I can be.
Stephie Daniels: You've mentioned a couple of times that you've been keeping your weight down, even in between camps. Talk about that a little, and how big a difference are we talking about?
Dan Hardy: I've been up to 218 before. That's the heaviest I've been, and that was after the GSP fight. I'd usually start my training camp at about 210, and during the camp, it would be a process of not only training technically for the guy, but a big part was about getting that weight off, and cutting calories. The problem with that is that during the first couple weeks of camp, you're trying to train for what you want to do in the fight, but you're carrying around an extra 20 pounds that you don't need. It just doesn't make any sense. I'm not really getting muscled around in my fights. The only guy that was really just too big and strong was Anthony Johnson, but he was like 214 on the night of the fight. That was just freakish.
My gameplan is not to grab people and throw them around and out-muscle them. I want to be that finesse guy, that technical guy that hits you on the way in or backs you up into a corner, throwing six or seven punch combinations. The weight cut just doesn't suit me when I have to take so much off. I just weighed myself after training, and I'm 182, and I feel great. I feel awesome. I'm lean, I'm in shape. I've done the whole training camp below 190. The pace and volume of work I can get into a training session, because I'm not lugging around 20 extra pounds, is fantastic. I feel great because if I feel hungry, I can eat. My diet is better. If I've got low energy, I can eat. My body feels clean and healthy, and my mind is sharp and focused. Every day is not a drag. My natural body weight is about 188 to 192, and I don't go over that anymore. I perform so much better now.
Stephie Daniels: You and Amir share a common opponent in Duane. Does it give you any sort of mental comfort knowing that you've beaten a guy that he's lost to?
Dan Hardy: I don't do the math like that, to be honest. Obviously, it's the way that a lot of people are going to look at it, and it is probably in the back of Amir's mind. Duane Ludwig beat the hell out of him for three rounds. Amir didn't even really get into that fight. Ludwig made him look very ordinary, then I come along and knock Duane out in the first round, so it's got to be in the back of his mind.
I've noticed that they've been training together for the past few weeks, and I'm not really sure what that does for Amir's confidence, but to each their own. I don't know what Duane is going to tell him, to be honest. I mean, training with Duane is certainly going to make him better, because Duane is better than him, but at the same time, it's not going to make him better than me, which surely should be his goal.
Stephie Daniels: You seem to have grown up a good deal in the last couple of years. What do you attribute this maturity to the most?
Dan Hardy: I'm not really sure how it all worked itself out, but I will say this, if I hadn't had that losing streak, it never would have happened. Losing to GSP was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I would have won the belt, I most likely would have turned into some insufferable loud mouth that people wouldn't have liked. I would rather be liked than be the champion. To be the champion, you have a responsibility, and I wasn't ready to have that responsibility.
After spending time with GSP, I feel like he is responsible as a champion. He conducts himself well, and he communicates well with people, and he understands the title that he's got and the position that he has in the sport. He's not, 'Well, I'm the champion and you all should respect me.' He's just not that guy. He's still working hard as a martial artist. That's why I got into this in the first place. I wanted to be a martial artist.
After that, I fought Carlos Condit. Even though I made it to the final bell in the title fight, I didn't really put up any kind of offense. My ego got away from me. Going into the Condit fight, I wasn't as focused, and I wasn't as respectful of him as I should have been. The guy that got knocked out that night, and the guy that got up off the canvas were two completely different people. At some point, I would like to shake Carlos' hand and thank him for that left hook, and removing that part of my personality that was holding me back. I'm in a better place now.
It was frustrating going into those next two fights, because I knew that something had to change, but I wasn't sure what. I tried to go back to the way that I used to train, and that didn't work. It wasn't really until I took a step away from the sport after the Chris Lytle fight that I said, 'OK, what needs to change?' My mindset had changed, but I wasn't changing the situation around me. I needed a good support network, so that's what I did next. I moved to Vegas and got new coaches and training partners, just a new outlook on life. If this next fight were to be my last one, I'm so glad I've gotten this experience to make these changes.
Stephie Daniels: What is your opinion of the UFC trying to push these superfights that cross two weight classes, like Anderson Silva vs. GSP, rather than focusing on a champion staying on top of his division and/or cleaning out his division?
Dan Hardy: GSP is the champion at 170, and he has no real reason to go out of the weight class and fight someone else, because not only does he have nothing to prove, he's made his money. Why would he risk his legacy by going out of his weight class? From a UFC perspective, it's about dollars. It's about making the money, and obviously, that would be a huge money maker, but the fighters have got to make the decisions that suit themselves, because nobody else is going to look out for them better than themselves.
If GSP is saying he wants to stay at 170 and clean out the division there, then the UFC will just have to get Anderson down to 170 to fight him. I think if Anderson Silva really wanted to make the weight, he probably could. The only way this fight should really happen is if GSP decides that he's done at 170, and he wants to challenge himself at 185. He once said to me, 'If I move out of 170, I'm not coming back. If I'm going to put weight on, I'm going to put quality weight on, and I'm not going to drain myself by trying to take it off again.'
I think Diego Sanchez is a great example of that. He went down to 155, and he looked great there. Then he has a loss, and goes back up to 170. He just wasn't the same. I don't think that moving up and down is safe. The weight classes are a lot bigger in MMA than they are in boxing. It's one thing going from 142 to 147, but it's quite another going up or down 15 pounds. That's a lot of weight. Then, you've got Anderson, who is walking around at like 215. That's a pretty big jump there. Physically, he's so much bigger than GSP. If Georges decides he does want that challenge, it's really got to be toward the end of his career or toward the section of his career where he decides that he wants to contend at a different weight class permanently. Going up to fight out of his weight class for a superfight, then coming back down to continue in his own division is just not a smart decision, and I'm sure he would agree.
Stephie Daniels: For as long as I've known you, you've always been single minded in your purpose. It's always been about getting the title. Now, you seem to be taking things in smaller increments, in a step by step process. With a win over Amir, what would be the next step you would want to take?
Dan Hardy: You know, there is one thing that I would like to do. I was watching the previews for the new Ultimate Fighter, and after watching that preview, I would like to go on that show and be a coach, just to try and save the sport from that show. I love the UFC and I love mixed martial arts, and martial arts in general, but that show is killing us. They fill a house with a bunch of guys that act like jackasses, and expect them to come out as mixed martial artists on the other end.
This is your six weeks to create a filter that everyone will look through for when they meet you in the future. If you're smashing things into the kitchen wall and yelling at people and throwing beds into the pool, every time somebody meets you, regardless of how much time has passed, they're going to look at you through that filter of that douchebag that they saw on that TV show. The problem is that people are watching this and thinking that's the UFC, and that's not the UFC. That's not me. I'm not like that. That is as far away from me as could possibly be, and I hate that I am connected to that by default through the sport.
It's not an accurate representation of the sport. I know hundreds of fighters all around the world that are sensible and disciplined and professional. They conduct themselves well, and converse well. Then, you've got these kids on the show, acting like lunatics, and making us all look bad, because that is a lot of people's first contact with the sport. Even if I were to get on that show and spend six weeks trying to convert these kids, and it not work, at least people will be able to tune in and watch the show and know what a professional mixed martial artist is like, and that he's trying to educate these kids and turn them into pros, as well. I would love to coach TUF, just to make a last stand for the reputation of MMA.
You can follow Dan via his Twitter account, @DanHardyMMA