Dan Hardy Tells Us How He Became the UFC's Newest Color Commentator ... and What It All Means
It's been a long time coming but the cat is finally out of the bag. Yesterday the UFC announced my new role as live commentator alongside John Gooden and Octagon announcer Andy Friedlander. Our first official show will be at the O2 Arena in London on March 8th. It's a place I have mixed feelings about regarding my own career, being on the good and bad side of a knockout victory. I have a feeling that this next time will be an awesome experience though. The card is stacked with new talent and has a genuine heavy hitter fighting on home turf against what many believe to be the future of the light-heavyweight division.
The new online UFC channel Fight Pass is going to be broadcasting the events, as we travel throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The EMEA region we will be covering has plenty of exciting cities in the pipeline. For several reasons I can't mention any of them just yet, other than the already announced Abu Dhabi show in April. Something else I have mixed feelings about because if I hold hands with my girl in public there I'm breaking the law. I'm not a fan of laws generally anyway but that is something I have particular issue with (but that’s a whole other column!).
I've been excited to tell you all about this process, which started a few months ago, but I was sworn to secrecy. Nobody wants that angry call from Dana White, complete with three cuss words per sentence, for spoiling the surprise! In January, whilst back in the UK, I took a trip down to London to do some screen testing. They had given me a list of upcoming events that I wasn't allowed to watch to be sure my commentary on them was genuine. The three of us sat all day in a cold little box with a camera in front of us, watching fights and trying to pretend we are at the event live … not easy.
Apart from a little post-event commentary for a DVD, I hadn't done anything like this. Driving down to London the evening before, I tried to imagine how I could possibly screw this up. I'm a UFC fan so watching fights all day and night is no problem, and studying fighters is second nature after many, many training camps. I also have the added benefit of having stepped into the Octagon 10 times. I've experienced most of the highs and lows that the eight-sided arena has to offer. I figure as long as I don't just stare blankly into the camera on my first night at work (which is quite possible), I should be fine.
As I said before, I've been on both sides of a knockout. I've lost by decision and submission, and I've had close battles and a world title fight. I've been the underdog and come out victorious, the hometown hero and the villain in a huge grudge match against Marcus Davis. It's been a crazy ride so far, and for now my part of that ride will involve studying and training and sitting on the other side of the fence, acting as the middleman between the fighters and the fans. It's going to be a challenge for me but at the same time it will be such an experience to sit Octagon-side, interpreting the battle between two elite reptiles as it unfolds.
I believe that after years of training and fighting one develops an ability to read people in a different way than someone inexperienced in combat--to understand body language and spot a passing micro-expression, to note a hint that pain was felt or a chink in the armor that should be exploited, to see that a particular fighter is pensive or anxious during the walk-out or pre-fight announcements. These are things that I would look for in my opponents, and I think that most fighters have an evolved insight in this particular field, and I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to share these insights as fights are happening.
To prepare us for the show in March the UFC thought it best to fly the EMEA team out to Vegas to meet me for UFC 170. My week has been the busiest of the year so far, and this year has been crazy since the start. Thursday was a full day, starting at 7.30am with my Pink Floyd alarm clock going off to make sure my day began on the right note! I got involved in some of the Fight Pass playlists, choosing some of my favorites from the UFC and Pride archives.
Reading from a teleprompter is another new challenge for me, as you will see when you check the site out. The outstanding patience of the recording staff cannot go unmentioned here. I must have been a nightmare and they didn't break their calm exterior once. I was very grateful! After that I basically sat in meetings all day trying to understand half a tree of paperwork about the pay-per-view format and running order. These guys are sticklers for detail; it’s like a military operation at Mandalay Bay right now.
It had become quite hard me for to watch UFC fights over the past few years, mainly because I always felt like I was at work and could never just watch them for the pleasure. Particularly if they were welterweight fights. I couldn't switch off work mode; I would constantly be dissecting each potential opponent and making mental notes. Since I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome last April and had to step away from fighting, however, I have been solidly addicted to the sport I love again. I'm loving watching the fights. The match-ups are intriguing again and the evolution of mixed martial arts is moving at full speed.
Now, I know the first question everyone will ask: "Does this mean you’re done fighting?"
The short answer is “no,” but a lot has changed this year and I can say that my days as a full-time professional athlete are done. My goal is to spend some time training, rebuilding my body, and proving to the doctors that I am fully capable of competing safely. In the meantime I can take care of the grown-up side of life, which became much more prevalent during my four-fight losing streak in 2010-11. The "Oh shit, how am I going to pay bills" question started popping up after the first four losses and just became louder as time progressed.
I realized that I never again wanted to be in a situation where I have to fight for the money. That would put my health at risk because my heart may not be in it and this is not a sport to half-ass. While a load of different opportunities presented themselves during my down time, commentating was the obvious choice. So without a fight to train for I stepped away from the physically damaging stuff we do every day during camp--sparring, grappling, hitting pads and bags, basically any kind of aggressive contact.
I've been competing for so many years now that my body has never really had an opportunity to fully heal. As those of you who follow me on any of the social networking sites knows, I've been doing a lot of yoga, gymnastic training, and strength and conditioning. Now I'm integrating my MMA training back into my schedule and I feel like a new man. Which means I can take this time to focus on my new career and simultaneously work on getting cleared to fight. Once I'm cleared I'd be interested in doing the occasional super-fight with someone who would potentially offer a good scrap.
I still have plenty of journeying left to do in the martial arts arena but a part of my journey now is educating fans, finding new ones, and growing our sport. I hope you tune in to watch and that you enjoy a slightly more British take on everyone’s favorite fight show. This will involve long words, sexy accents, tea, and trash talking if someone is being a chicken in the Octagon!
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.