When the news hit that Dan Hardy had been pulled from the UFC on FOX 7 card due to being medically unfit to compete, no one could have imagined it would be because of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Dan, who has become somewhat of a physical specimen over the last couple of years due to diet and exercise changes, feels that he is in the best shape of his life. This revelation in his cardiac status has taken him by surprise just as much as it has the rest of us.
So, what exactly is Hardy's diagnosis? According to California physicians, he has a condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. I won't go into elaborate details, but I have linked it for our readers to research at their own convenience. While Dan passed his stress test with flying colors, and is in peak physical condition, there is still an associated risk, no matter how small it may be, in letting him compete.
Dan spoke with me at length today about his condition and what it could potentially mean for his career future. Before I get to the meat of the interview, I want to point out a few interesting tidbits for you.
- While on an Ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon, Dan met his spirit animal, and it just happened to be a wolf
- Dan's nickname, Outlaw, is associated with a Latin term used by the English legal system, caput gerat lupinum, which literally means wolf's head
- Dan has changed his Twitter handle to Wolfheart
So here's what happened. California requires extra testing, one of the tests being an EKG. I have had an EKG one other time before this one. I had taken a short notice fight while I was training at ATT with Paul Daley in 2004, and one of the ATT guys pulled out of their fight, and I stepped in to replace him. That was when I fought Pat Healy. They did an EKG then because I had an irregular heartbeat, but they cleared me to fight anyway. That was the only time anything's really ever been noticed. Since then, I've never had an EKG. I've never had any symptoms, either. I'm in great shape. I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, which is ironic.
In the back of my mind, I've been thinking that if I did go ahead and fight, and something happened, then that would be on the sport. It's good that we've got this test in place, because we don't want something like that happening in the sport. Not only would it be a terrible thing, but it would do a lot of damage in the public eye. I think maybe more states should require this testing, as well.
It's taken me to get to this point, where I'm living with health as a main priority. I am in the best shape of my life, and everything is starting to fall into place. I don't know ... maybe my journey through martial arts was to get me to this stage, where I can approach whatever comes next. I'm certainly feeling like it's a prod from the universe to kind of reassess and look at where I'm at, because I know there are a lot of things I want to do in my life as well, so this might be a good sign to refocus and do something different, perhaps.
I've been thinking about it, and I don't want to think for a second that I'm done fighting, because I still love training and fighting. At the same time, I also feel that there are lots of other things that I should be doing, things that I should be concentrating on in different areas of my life.
The problem with fighting, particularly with the pace and level that I have been, you don't have time for anything else. It dominates your whole life. It's very difficult to step away for a week and just focus on something else. Always in the back of your mind, you've got thoughts of the next fight. It's a constant preoccupation, and I really want to start to look at other things in my life, as well.
What it comes down to, though, is what the UFC is going to have to say on it. I certainly don't know where the UFC stands on using me to fight in other states, because obviously now, this will be on my medical record. I've got a wolf heart, and now everybody knows it [laughs].
Then you have to wonder if the UFC can use me on shows in Europe or Australia, or things like that. Those are also options to consider. I just know that, at this point, I'm not going to have the surgery, because I don't think I really need it. If, at any point, I start to feel like it might be necessary, I'll start considering it. As of right now, I'm good, and I don't want anybody messing with me.
The thing is, the doctors didn't say anything about fixing the problem. They say they want to study me, which basically means putting tubes into the arteries in my leg and my neck, so they can study my heart. Usually, when people have this, they have one, main heartbeat, and then they have two or three weaker electrical connections that are kind of sporadic. Sometimes it can cause a panic attack or palpitations.
The problem with me, is that I have my main heartbeat, then I have the secondary heartbeat, which is almost as strong as the main one. It's kind of an odd situation. They might be able to go in and fix it, by burning it out, but if it's too close to the main heartbeat, they can't touch it. I'm very much of the opinion, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.'
I'm doing hard training sessions every day, I've gone to Peru to drink psychadelic brews, I get eight hour's worth of tattooing done. You know what I mean? I'm doing all these extreme things, and I've never had a bad reaction, so why would I want someone to go in and start messing with stuff? It just doesn't make sense to me.
I think it might be an evolutionary enhancement [laughs]. Who's to say it's a bad thing? It's quite an interesting circumstance, and that was the point in the stress test that had me do. They had me hooked up to a machine and running on a treadmill like a little hamster. I finished the test in 18 minutes.
What they were hoping to see, is if my regular heartbeat would raise with the stress of the exercise. If the secondary heartbeat didn't really react too much, it would mean it's not as strong. My heart rate maxed out at 192, and my secondary heartbeat was at 171 [laughs]. I always knew I was special.
Looking back, I've never had a single incident happen in my past that would make me think there was anything out of the ordinary. Not one thing. I do a lot of meditating and a lot of breathing exercises, and I'm always very much aware of my heartbeat. I feel like I have great control over it. I can concentrate and slow it down pretty well. I've never felt better, and I've never had an issue.
Alternate career pathways
If it was determined that I shouldn't or couldn't fight anymore, you know, there would be a transitional period, and in that middle ground, there may be something I could do to help the sport in another way, and if that's through the UFC, I would love it. I'm a huge UFC fan, and it's always great to be a part of it. I will continue to help people in the gym, as well. I'm working with Mike Pyle and Mac Danzig for their fights. Even Amir Sadollah, I'm helping him with his next fight.
I'm still going to be around the sport. I wouldn't put distance between it and myself like I couldn't deal with it. It's a part of me, and it always will be, so if there's something I can do to help the sport, then most definitely, I will. If this means that I've got to move away from fighting, like I'm not allowed to fight anymore, then it might be time, and I might have to step away. We'll just have to let it play out, and see what happens.
It's quite interesting that yesterday, there was an article that I read about Marc Ratner speaking to the athletic commission about marijuana, and I think it would be a very sensible change to make. Marijuana should not be on the performance enhancing list. That's common sense to most people over the age of 12.
Marijuana is a very important subject now, particularly when you give an athlete the option of using something that's natural, that grows out of the ground that can help with all sorts of things ranging from insomnia to anxiety disorders. We face these type things in training camp when preparing for a fight. On the alternative side, they can be using pharmaceutical drugs that can be addictive and toxic, yet they're legal, and perfectly fine to use. It seems very short sighted, and I know a lot of athletes that would benefit in a positive way from a change in the rules.
The frustrating thing is, over the past few months, I've really started to understand what I'm trying to achieve at this point in my career and within the sport, and the things I'm trying to improve on, and the mentality I'm trying to get to during a fight. I was actually looking forward to having a few fights, particularly against Matt Brown, who really brings that instinct, to make it a real dogfight. Now, I might not get those opportunities, which is quite disappointing.
I am certainly looking and hoping to have those personal experiments in the cage, to tap into that reptilian brain. I'm rambling now, but I have a thought process behind it [laughs]. I'm just quite disappointed that I won't get to play that out in April, because I'm feeling really good right now.
There's a particular point in a fight, where you really stop over-thinking the situation. There have been times for me, where I've got my opponent in front of me, and my mind is going from various different days in training camps, and stuff that I've worked on, combinations I've worked on, game plans. My mind is all over the place, and I'm really trying to focus in and concentrate on the fight.
That's when you start over-thinking things. That's when you get caught with stupid stuff. I want to get past that, because there's also another stage where it's almost like you're a passenger in your own body. You switch off, and you just work off instinct. I've not been able to access that whenever I wanted.
In the Ludwig fight, it didn't happen until he cracked me with a good right hand, and then I kind of switched on to autopilot. It's very much like meditation, and I'm trying to reach that point more consistently in my fights.
Yeah, I've thought about a second opinion. It's possible that I'll go back to the UK and maybe see a doctor or two there. I'm always a little bit suspicious of the American healthcare system, with it being a business, as opposed to being a service. That's always in the back of my mind when I'm getting this information. It is what it is, and yeah, I might go back to the UK to see what they have to say, but to be honest, I'm in a really good place right now, and I'm excited about what comes next.
Lots of good things are coming. It's kind of a personal thing, much more of a spiritual journey, I guess. Lots of odd synchronicities have been happening recently, and I've had a lot of power days. I've been out meditating in the desert, swimming in the lake, doing a lot of yoga and cleansing my body. I just feel very sharp and sensitive, at the moment. There's a lot more in store for me, and I'm ready for it.
You can follow Dan via his Twitter account, @DanHardyMMA