Former UFC welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy is scheduled for his first fight since winning a unanimous decision at UFC on Fuel TV over Amir Sadollah on September 29, 2012. But this time Hardy will be stepping into the boxing ring, promotional officials confirmed to MMA Fighting. His opponent will be former UFC lightweight title challenger Diego Sanchez. The event will take place on Saturday, July 2nd live from the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
The card will be headlined by popular former boxing world champions Ricky Hatton and Marco Antonio Barrera, also in an exhibition. Hatton, 43, was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao in 2009, and retired after a subsequent KO loss in 2012. Barrera, now 48, last fought in 2011.
As for the two UFC veterans on the undercard, Hardy made his Octagon debut in 2008, earning a split decision win over Akihiro Gono at UFC 89. He went on to win his next three fights in the promotion, earning a title shot against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. After dropping a unanimous decision to the champion, Hardy went 2-3 in his next five fights in the UFC. He was diagnosed with a rare heart condition that made it difficult to get cleared for additional fights. After his UFC departure, Hardy worked as an analyst and commentator. Recently, he’s been vocal about his desire to compete again. There were talks of a boxing match with Tyron Woodley, but Woodley instead opted for a rematch with Jake Paul on short notice.
Diego Sanchez was part of The Ultimate Fighter’s first season, winning the show after defeating Kenny Florian in the season finale in 2005. He would go on to fight for the UFC for the next 15 years. Diego fought BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight title in 2009, a fight he lost by TKO after taking a head kick that opened a gnarly cut over his eye. Diego would bounce between weight classes throughout the rest of his UFC career, with his last fight being a decision loss to Jake Matthews in September 2020. His next fight would be under the Eagle FC banner, where he took on another former UFC fighter in Kevin Lee. The fight took place at 165 lbs., and although Diego lost by decision, he was able to put on a solid performance where he landed several effective strikes on the feet.
The boxing bout between Hardy and Sanchez will be an exhibition with eight rounds of two minutes. The pair of MMA veterans are expected to appear at a pre-event press conference on Sunday.