Dan Hardy’s Lightweight Return

Fightland Blog

By Tom Taylor

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It’s been more than two years since we last saw Dan “the Outlaw” Hardy in action. His last fight was against Amir Sadollah—whom he beat by unanimous decision—at UFC on Fuel TV 5: Miocic vs. Struve. That’s a long time to go without the UFC’s most famous Mohawk. The length of the break, however, was not Hardy’s choice. 

It has been a heart-related disorder called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that’s kept the British welterweight from competition for so long. It’s a rare ailment (though it also affects the likes of Marilyn Manson, Meat Loaf and Jeff Garlin), and has very low levels of actual risk. Still, the UFC and the athletic commissions with which it cooperates were unwilling to gamble with Hardy’s safety. Of course, nobody can fault them for that. And anyway, Hardy hasn’t let the time slip through his fingers. While he’s been on the shelf, he has filled his time by serving as an articulate and engaging commentator for the UFC’s European shows, and from the look of his Instagram account, doing a lot of yoga. He’s even made some contributions to FIGHTLAND. Yes, the Outlaw’s gun-slingin’ days might be on hold, but he has certainly kept himself busy. 

The good news, however, is that Hardy seems optimistic about a return in the not-too-distant future—probably sometime in 2015. And while Hardy’s trash talk and verbal barbs have made him one of MMA’s more polarizing athletes, his return is the kind of development that all MMA fans should celebrate. In an era marred by point fighting and judging controversy, Dan Hardy is one fighter you can nearly always count on for a show. Remember his thunderous knockouts of Rory Markham and Duane Ludwig? Remember his tooth-and-nail battles with Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle? Even in his defeat to George St-Pierre at UFC 111, he managed to entertain, fighting through the champion’s submission attempts in a way that would cause Tim Sylvia and Big Nog to shudder. Yes, Hardy’s tenacity has established him as one of the staples of the UFC welterweight division. 

It appears, however, that when he does return, it might not be to that role. Hardy has reported in several interviews that during his long hiatus, he’s shed some pounds (or stone, for you UK fans). Come his return to action, Dan Hardy might just be the UFC’s newest lightweight. And in anticipation of this possibility, he’s already got an opponent in mind: everyone’s favourite brawler—the yes-man himself—Diego Sanchez. 

As far as rankings go, would this match-up carry much significance? Probably not. Legitimate wins have become scarce for Sanchez, and despite winning his last two, Hardy’s recent four fight skid still echoes. From an entertainment standpoint, however, a hypothetical clash between the pair is a gold mine. Just imagine the collision of Hardy’s razor sharp striking and Sanchez’s never-back-down style. The result couldn’t possibly be boring. And even if this hypothetical match-up doesn’t come to fruition, there are infinitely more options for a lightweight Outlaw. Let’s play matchmaker for a moment. 

Imagine the coinciding returns of Dan Hardy and TJ Grant. The pair could be matched up when the UFC returns to Canada or the UK, and the result would be guaranteed dynamite. Not convinced? Imagine a supposed skirmish between Hardy and any number of mid-level lightweight strikers: Tony Ferguson, Daron Cruikshank or Takanori Gomi. Bang, bang, bang.  Imagine Hardy versus Jorge Masvidal, Hardy versus Joe Lauzon, and Hardy versus Evan Dunham. Imagine Dan Hardy versus Nate Diaz. Any of the above, regardless of how they played out for the Brit, would almost guarantee fireworks. In the UFC’s deepest division the options for the Outlaw are countless. And of course, there’s always my favorite match-up for a 155 lb. Dan Hardy: a clash with the ever-entertaining Eddie Alvarez. I’d wager the meager contents of my wallet that that fight would earn Fight of the Night honors. The point here is that the options for a returning Dan Hardy are endless.

When he returns, can Hardy contend for the title again? Be it at welterweight or lightweight, that’s difficult to say. But as long as his competitive fire burns, there will be droves of entertaining match-ups available to him. So, while his comeback might not carry as much significance as that of Anderson Silva, or the potential return of GSP, it should have MMA fans excited all the same. Sure, Dan Hardy is great with a headset on, but he’s at his best in a pair of 4 oz. gloves.



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