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UFC: Where in the world is Dan Hardy? (Interview exclusive)

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UFC welterweight star, Dan Hardy discusses fighter pay, having a Wolff heart, sponsor taxes and if this might be the end of the road for his fighting career.

Matt Roberts

It's been 10 months since we last saw Dan Hardy in the octagon, and I've got to admit, that's about six months too long for my preference. After hitting a four fight skid of losses, Dan went back to the drawing board, rededicated himself fully to his chosen profession, and turned things around impressively. His next two fights were wins, and we got to see a new facet of the man who once went by the 'Outlaw' nickname.

Unfortunately, a curve ball was lobbed his way earlier this year when he was preparing for a bout with UFC welterweight crowd pleaser, Matt Brown. Hardy was found to have a rare cardiac disorder known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The condition is characterized by an abnormal extra electrical pathway in the heart, and while instances of fatality are extraordinarily low, they have happened, and the UFC has decided it best to keep him off the fight scene until more tests are run on him.

As a result, he's been seeing physicians in an attempt to gain more knowledge and determine if a surgical procedure that would 'burn out' the extra heartbeat is actually necessary. This takes time, and at 31 years of age, and still very much in the prime of his career, Hardy has become frustrated with the long period of inactivity. Undaunted though, he's kept training and says he's in phenomenal shape, and despite the cliche nature of this quote, says he feels like he's in 'the best shape ever.'

As an admitted Dan Hardy fan, and in the very fortunate position to be friends with him, I decided to reach out to get an update. We spoke at length on a few topics, the most relevant being his condition and his take on fighter pay. Here's what 'Wolfheart' had to say:

Easy Isn't Always Easy For Everyone

I've had a second consultation, but they didn't really tell me anything. They just said that in order to clear me, they need to know how strong the second heartbeat is, and in order to find out how strong it is, they need to go in through my neck and femoral artery to study it. That's essentially the same thing as burning out the heartbeat. While they're in there, if they can find where it is, they can burn it out at the same time.It just doesn't make any sense to me. I spoke to my doctor in the UK, and he said not to touch it. The procedure is the easy option for everybody involved except me.

I haven't spoken to Dana (White) since he was encouraging me to go out and get the second opinion. I was supposed to see Lorenzo (Fertitta) this week sometime, but we have just not managed to connect. I'm still kind of in limbo. I'm training, and I'll be in California next week to help Mac Danzig out. After that, I'll be driving along the west coast, and I'll be stopping in and training at various gyms. I have stuff to do, but other than my sponsors, I don't really have a job.

Options, Or Lack Thereof

I have people that are interested in me. There are a couple of TV shows, like survival type stuff, which is something I'm very interested in, and some MMA shows have reached out to me to do stuff, but the problem is, I'm still under contract with the UFC. That means I can't really just run right out and accept whatever offer I want.

I've been working a lot with my sponsors, and I also have something coming up in October, working with the US military. I'm going to start traveling for them, doing appearances and teaching seminars. The thing is, it's not work. It's all voluntary and charity. It's not something that I can focus entirely on. It's not something that I can develop into a career. It's a bunch of one off things with bits here and bits there.I'm writing for a few magazines. There is stuff to keep me busy, but I still feel like I'm hanging around in 'waiting mode' at the moment.

The Bottom Line

I'm not going to have anything done. I'll only get that surgery if it becomes a necessity. If at some point in my life, it becomes harmful to me, or I develop bad symptoms, I might consider it. I've done all of these things in my life up to this point, without an issue. There's no logic to going in and getting it done, because it just doesn't need doing.

The value of getting the surgery to carry on fighting or not getting it and carrying on with my life ... there's not really a great difference there. Obviously, I would like to fight, if it was my decision, but it's not. It's frustrating because I was in motion for another fight. I was preparing, and then it was abruptly stopped.

Money, Money, Money

Well, fighter pay is really a strange situation, because there's such a vast difference in the guys that are on the first three fights of a card and the guys on the last three fights of a card. The guys on the lower end are seeing what the main card guys are doing and thinking, 'Well, I'm doing all the same stuff that they're doing, sacrificing just as much.' They're spending just as much on their training camp, but they're not getting the same kind of compensation.

The problem is that the fighters are in a situation where we don't really have a great deal of options, as far as bargaining power. There are 100 guys that would step in and do my job for free. That kind of devalues us. There aren't any options as far as where we can go and what we can do.

With the sponsor fees, it really limits what we can do outside the sport, as well. It's just a very difficult situation to be in. I'm fortunate, because I live an inexpensive life. I've got a few Lego sets and a $7,000 muscle car. Those were my treats throughout my whole career. I've not really spent any money on anything else. I just don't have expensive living costs.

There are fighters out there with kids and families. Now, with there being so many fighters, the guys aren't getting three fights a year any more. It's down to maybe two a year, and it all just comes back to not having many other options. I can understand that the UFC has a business model, and their lower tier fighters fare much better than pro boxers, but it's just not enough to live on.

Training camps consume so much of our time and energy and expenses, as well. We effectively wind up fighting for nothing anyway. Unless you win the belt or break into that PPV buy cut, or are in the very top tier, you just can't get by with it being your sole source of income.

Frankie Edgar recently fought and got a whole chunk of change. He fought really hard, and he deserves that money, but he didn't start making that kind of money until he fought for and won a belt. I've fought for a belt, and I'm certainly not making anywhere near that kind of money.

Sponsor Tax

That really hurt the fighters. I went from one fight, where I sold the space on the front of my shorts for $5,000, to six months later, going back to the same company, and only getting an offer of $1500 because of the sponsor fee. I refused it, because someone has got to set a standard. The problem is, when I turn it down, there's another 10 fighters on the undercard that will take that offer, because there's nobody else paying.

You have a sponsor, and maybe they have $150,000 in their budget for the year for advertising. They have to pay $100k of that to the UFC. Now, that only leaves $50k for the fighters for the whole year. Everybody takes a pay cut apart from the UFC.

It's so much more difficult to find good sponsors these days. I've been very fortunate because I have decent sponsors to work with. Xyience has stuck with me and looked after me, as well as Venum and Fear the Fighter. These companies have established themselves and have a budget that can accommodate me. Other fighters that might not have the marketability that I've got don't have much value to a sponsor, so why would they get paid top price?

If these undercard guys could get sponsored by an up and coming brand in California or somewhere, that's got a few different T shirts. It's better to give $1000 to one of those guys, and in turn give the smaller company some good business opportunity, also. If they could do a tier system for sponsors, it might make a lot of difference for a lot of people. It's very difficult for a company to even get off the ground because they can't sponsor any of the fighters. It's effectively killing the MMA brand as a whole.

Is This The End?

If this is it for my fighting career in the UFC, if it comes down to it, and they can't use me in an active situation any more, then that's it for me. I've always said that my career would end with the UFC, and I meant it. I'm never gonna go and fight somewhere else. If I'm honest, I don't really have any interest in fighting for anyone else.

You can follow Dan via his Twitter account