Dan Hardy Article on UFC.com

Dan Hardy: UK’s hero in a half-shell
By Elliot Worsell

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gave the world many things. We had Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Dontatello. There was Splinter, April O’Neill, Casey Jones and the dreaded Shredder. Comics, spin-off television series’, live concerts, action figures, food products and feature films followed.

The Turtles also gave us Dan ‘The Outlaw’ Hardy.

“I was a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” admits the UFC newcomer, who recently signed a four-fight deal with the world’s premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation. “As a kid I was always running around kicking things. My parents decided to take me somewhere I could kick stuff and not get in trouble for it.”

Thanks to the foresight of his parents and the sword skills of the Turtles, Hardy began training in Tae Kwon Do at the age of six. A black belt was wrapped round his waist soon after. By 2002, Hardy moved a step closer to joining his green-bodied heroes as he travelled to China to train with the Shaolin monks.

“I spent some time in China training with the Shaolin monks and during that time I learned a lot of traditional kung-fu,” Hardy explains. “Although I enjoyed it, it made me realise that my heart was in the competition side of martial arts – so when I returned home, I began training specifically for MMA.”

Though a wiz in Tae Kwon Do, Hardy quickly realised the depth and complexities of MMA upon entering his first amateur tournament. He could punch. He could kick. He could take guys out on his terms. The grappling side of the art was something that came less naturally to the Nottingham standout. Changes were sought and a challenge was born. Relishing this new – albeit hugely demanding – direction, Hardy turned pro as a mixed martial artist in 2004. The rest is history.

Preferring a black and red Mohawk hair-do to a coloured bandana, Hardy is currently 19-6 as a pro, with 10 wins via knockout and four via submission. A natural finisher, Hardy romped to Cage Warriors’ welterweight and light-welterweight titles and quickly became the name on the end of the tongues of most British MMA aficionados. Offers from bigger organisations soon followed at the kind of breakneck rate Hardy was disposing well-respected opponents.

The UFC soon came knocking. It didn’t take long for Hardy to shout ‘Cowabunga’.

“It’s great,” says welterweight Hardy. “I’m grateful that the UFC are giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills in the most prestigious MMA event in the world.

“I think it’s every fighter’s dream to compete in the UFC because it’s the pinnacle of the sport. To be recognised in the sport of MMA, you have to be among the best fighters and they are in the UFC.”

The jump from being the best in Britain to the best in the world is a substantial one, and one that isn’t lost on Hardy. A student of the game, Hardy was adamant that the UFC would have to wait until he was fully prepared and confident enough to not only compete but also become a success on the biggest stage.

“I know the timing is right for me now,” admits Hardy. “I have trained at some of the best gyms in the world and have fought some really tough opponents on my way to the UFC. I have the experience and the skills to step into the Octagon and beat whoever stands in front of me.”

Describing his style as “fast-paced and technically destructive”, Hardy isn’t the type to shirk a challenge. He won’t seek soft touches or look for protection. “I break my opponent down physically and mentally and enjoy every second of it,” he says devilishly.

A natural competitor, Hardy hones his unique style of fighting at Nottingham’s Team Rough House Gym as well as at Los Angeles’ famed 10th Planet/Legends Gym alongside jiu-jitsu expert Eddie Bravo. It’s a perfect concoction for Hardy and one that he believes is absolutely necessary to reach the promised land up ahead.

“I think all areas of my game have room for improvement but I have particularly been focusing on my jiu-jitsu with Eddie Bravo and the guys at 10th Planet,” explains Hardy. “I hope I never stop learning because there is nothing better than going into a fight with a new technique and using it on your opponent. I have travelled a lot to train with the best guys I could find and this has helped me grow as a fighter. I’m not afraid of getting my ass kicked in order to get better, so I’ve been able to spar with people of a higher standard and learn from them.”

“In Nottingham I have a great team that have been working well together for years. My coaches back at home (Owen Comrie and Nathan Leverton) have so much to teach and have dedicated a lot of time to helping me. In Los Angeles I can focus on my jiu-jitsu and work with some amazing grapplers and I also spend time in Las Vegas sparring and working with Shawn Tompkins.”

The foundations appear to be in place. The building blocks are positioned. On October 18 at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, Hardy will discover, for the very first time, exactly what the UFC is all about. Hardy will meet Japanese veteran Akihiro Gono at UFC 89 in a battle that pits teacher against student – sorcerer against apprentice. It’s a showdown welcomed by the go-getting Hardy.

“I have been watching Gono my whole career,” admits Hardy. “He has an interesting style and has fought some of the
best in the world. I think it will make for a very technical and exciting fight and definitely the toughest of my career so far. To be given a fighter like Gono in my debut is a gift. It also shows that the UFC knows I can deal with top-level fighters, which is a huge compliment.

The 26-year-old continued: “Gono is very elusive and has good defence so I will have to bring my ‘A’ game if I want to catch him with some good shots. My advantages are my age and my hunger. I know he doesn’t want the win as much as me. The Dan Hardy that shows up in October will be so much better than ever before.”

It will probably have to be. As well as being a supreme showman, Gono is also nicknamed ‘Magic Man’ on account of his ability to pull off unbelievable submissions in unbelievable situations. He’s met both Ruas (Mauricio and Murilo), Matt Hughes, Dan Henderson and a string of other leading MMA stars in a career spanning back to 1994.

As well as the threat of a cagey debut opponent, Hardy will also have around 10,000 English fans chanting his name. Though familiar with fighting at home during his dominant reign as Cage Warriors champion, Hardy will have never seen a crowd like he will on October 18. Pressure? What pressure?

“The only pressure I will feel on my debut is to give a good account of myself and show the world that I am for real,” explains ‘The Outlaw’. “Nerves are natural and if I wasn’t nervous before a fight, I would be concerned. Nerves are what make me switch into fight mode and prepare my mind to take care of business.

“I have some pre-fight superstitions but they change a lot – I usually have something I write on my hand wraps, but that changes from one fight to another depending on the opponent.”

If Hardy is in need of inspiration come October, he need look no further than his fellow Brit topping the UFC 89 bill – Lancashire’s Michael Bisping.

“Michael is a very personable guy and I think that has helped (British) people relate to the sport,” says Dan. “They can see that we are real people that work hard to give our best in the Octagon. Bisping has had a great deal of press in the UK and he is becoming a household name so people tune into the UFC shows to follow his career.”

Already tagged the ‘new Michael Bisping’ in some quarters, Hardy is happy to shoulder his share of the responsibility for raising the profile of MMA in the United Kingdom.

“The positive feedback from the fans and the recognition for your skills is very rewarding for me,” he says. “Most of all, I fight for the respect of my loved ones, the other fighters and the fans. If they enjoy watching me fight then that is enough for me. If in the process I become a standard bearer for the UK in the UFC, then I will be honoured.”

When the time eventually does arrive, you won’t need a traditional knight’s sword to complete the honouring ceremony. Hardy would opt for a ninjaken. Leonardo’s ninjaken.

Link to Article

Comments are closed.