Dan Hardy: The Evolution of an Outlaw

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Yves Edwards bid an emotional farewell to MMA this week after nearly twenty years in the sport. His feelings reverberated throughout the international community through various social media posts, articles and interviews as we celebrated a truly memorable career. At 38 years of age, Edwards walked away from the sport on his own accord and in full health—a victory in itself for a combat athlete. 

When Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy had to take a step back from competition he didn’t have a choice in the matter. Diagnosed with a heart condition—Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome— during his camp for his contest with Matt Brown that was scheduled for April 30 2013 at UFC on Fox 7, at just 30 years of age Hardy’s fighting career stopped abruptly.

“It was a rough few months,” Hardy recalled of his forced withdrawal from the sport. “I was midway through a training camp, so to stop my momentum halfway through—I think I was four weeks away from a fight when they pulled me out—it was really disappointing. 

“You have all this built up energy that you have nothing to do with. That was particularly difficult to deal with, it took me a long time to process that and get over that. Then to find out I wasn’t going to be cleared to fight, I couldn’t really even be in the gym to be honest.

“It was just frustrating. I had been competing since I was seven and I’ve always had a reason to train and something to work towards. As soon as I was told that I wouldn’t be able to compete, it just kind of took the wind out of my sails. 

“It’s taken me a little while to get back into it, but now I’m more in love with martial arts than ever before. It worked out well in the end, but it was a difficult transition.” 

Hardy has made a seamless crossover into the media landscape, both commentating and writing, which may have surprised some fans based on his outspoken promotional work in his fledgling years with the UFC. Although he was never far from controversy as a fighter, his commentary partnership with fellow Englishman Jonathon Gooden and their work on UFC Fight Night cards has been widely praised.

The British commentating team’s calm, relaxed and technical dialogue has won a lot of praise given its contrast to the style of UFC’s legendary combination of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. Although it seemed like Gooden and Hardy had made a conscious effort to diversify their style, “The Outlaw” maintained that it all fell into place naturally. 

“It was very organic. I love Joe’s commentary, and I love the other guys’ too, but we’ve all got different things to offer. The difference with the UK and Europe in general is that we’re not quite as shouty, screamy or excitable. I struggle to watch some fights because I really like to pay attention and I don’t like to be distracted by the person commentating. 

“I think it should almost blend into the background, like a subconscious train of thought that I’m having while I’m paying attention to the fight. I commentate how I would like to hear a commentator—to not be overwhelming and to not take away from the actual fight itself.” 

The Taekwondo black belt discussed how happy he is with his non-fighting role with UFC in which he has been able to witness the tremendous growth of the sport. The Nottingham native also highlighted how taking part in fight weeks without the added pressure of fighting or making weight has its perks too.  

“I love the sport and I love being a part of UFC. To be able to go to fight weeks well over two or three times a year and not have to worry about weight cutting, it’s great. I can talk to all of the fighters and I don’t have to worry about the pressure of the cut or fighting, it’s a very enjoyable process. 

“The sport is growing so quickly at the moment we’re all just trying to keep up with it. The fan base is expanding so rapidly, I have people coming up to me in the street that I would never think would be watching MMA. Not only are they watching it but their knowledge is so much deeper than it was before. It’s an exciting time because I get to share the sport with so many people now, a lot more than when I was fighting,” he said. 

The former welterweight championship contender has made some noise about a return to the sport in the past few months, with his initial call-out of Diego Sanchez being prominently featured across MMA outlets back in July. 

Although he is living with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, Hardy has never had as a much as a symptom that would suggest that the illness would obscure his fighting ability. Given that, after Hardy has settled into his move back to the UK from Vegas, he is planning on seeking out the clearance that he needs to get back into the Octagon. 

The Englishman spoke openly about his reluctance to see American doctors based on his belief that they are primarily motivated by financial gain rather than the well-being of their patients. 

“It doesn’t affect me at all. If I hadn’t of done the medical and been told that I had a second heartbeat I still wouldn’t have known about it today. I haven’t had a single symptom my whole life. I’ve had about 300 amateur fights and 50-something pro fights at this stage, so if it hasn’t shown itself or caused a problem so far I don’t see why it ever would. 

“From the research I’ve done and the specialists that I’ve spoken to, the chances of it being a problem decrease with age anyway. So when you get 25-30 and you’ve not had a symptom, it’s unlikely that it’s ever going to cause you a problem.

“Everybody that I meet that speaks about it, that’s had an experience with it or that have actually had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome—they have it and they know about it because it’s caused them problems. I was chatting to a guy today that’s had four operations and none of them worked and now he’s got a pacemaker. 

“You know what I mean? That could be me. I could get a surgery that I don’t really need that could potentially bring about more problems than I have at the moment. It’s not a logical move for me. Unless it starts to really affect my health and my life, I wouldn’t even consider it,” he said. 

“Unfortunately I still can’t say I’ll definitely comeback because I haven’t done the testing that I need to do to get cleared yet. I’ve been in the process of moving back from Vegas to the UK. Keeping up with this job has been pretty crazy, we’ve had six shows this year and we kind of hit the ground running with the London show and it’s been nonstop since. 

“When I get back I’m going to be looking to speak with the doctors that I need to see to get cleared. More than anything I don’t want to be going to see American doctors, I just don’t trust that they’re giving me an honest opinion. They’re like used car salesmen. I’m not a patient to them, I’m a customer. I don’t want to be having a surgery that I don’t need so I can pay for some cardiologist’s yacht,” he revealed. 

With winning ways, inflammatory comments and whole nation behind him, there can be a lot of similarities drawn between Hardy and his fellow European Conor McGregor. After claiming four back to back wins under the UFC banner Hardy was awarded with a title shot against all-time great Georges St Pierre which was met by both tremendous excitement and open objection—much like McGregor’s claims of being the rightful number one contender to Jose Aldo’s featherweight title. 

“I do see some similarities, there is some crossover there but I think Conor is just at a higher volume than me in a lot of ways,” he laughed. “He’s stopping guys, in my first four UFC fights I only stopped one guy whereas Conor, well he’s looking untouchable at the moment. 

“There’s much more of an argument for him getting a title shot than there was for me at the time. I think he’s quite deserving of it. He’s a fantastic fighter, he’s a fantastic martial artist and I think that he has a long way to go. 

“It’s going to be interesting to see when he does hit some adversity because unfortunately in UFC, you do. You’re never going to stay on top forever, and it’s how he’s going to handle that adversity that’s really going to define him as a character. 

“The GSP fight for me wasn’t really that adversity because I did better than everybody thought I was going to. The adversity for me was when I lost to Carlos Condit in London that was a real ego check. That changed a lot about me as a person. I got knocked down and I got up a different person and that’s not an exaggeration. 

“For the better, I would never change that. Obviously I’d love a rematch with him, I’d love to get him back, but at the same time I grew a lot as a fighter. 

“Given the fact that Conor is as advanced as he is now as a mixed martial artist, I only think good things are going to come of it when he hits adversity as long as he handles it in the right way. Time will tell but for now I’m on the hype train. I want to see how well he’s going to do and what he does next.” 

Asked what his favorite memories from his fighting career thus far were, Hardy cited his bouts with Marcus Davis and Mike Swick as being particularly memorable for him:

“They all stand out in their own ways. The Marcus Davis one was a tough test. There was a lot of hype and a lot of trash talk going into that. It opened the main card that night because they wanted us to get the crowd fired up. There was a lot of pressure on us. 

“I talked a lot of shit and going into that fight I knew that if I lost it was really going to damage my brand. There was a lot of relief after that fight. After I beat Swick as well in Manchester in front of thousands of British fans and then GSP got into the Octagon after. It was a pretty dramatic night.” 

Finally, Hardy made a revelation that will put a lot of his fans’ minds at ease with regard to his comeback. 

“No doubt, when I get clearance I’ll be growing the Mohawk back. I might try a different a color next time. I’ll try to switch things up a little bit. I’m very different now than when I was wearing the red Mohawk, so I would like a little distinction between the two, but definitely the Mohawk will be back.”


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