Chasing Glory: Dan Hardy’s Road to UFC 111
Adversity to a fighter is akin to the transmission of a vehicle – it is what drives and motivates good fighters to become great. Fans at times seem to forget that their heroes are people who, apart from their chosen profession, live their lives much like the rest of us. Maybe it is on purpose – maybe humanizing a warrior defeats the purpose of being a warrior. Perhaps at times we fail to acknowledge their humanity because it is more comfortable that way – our favorite Ultimate Fighter is there to entertain, nothing more and nothing less. On the flip side of that coin, the difficulties and dilemmas which fighters face develop a story, at times a marketable story which can rocket their popularity into main card status. Regardless, adversity for these athletes is a guarantee, because much like you and me, they are bound to face it sooner or later. A good fighter will ultimately exude greatness not simply because they face adversity, but because of how that adversity is directed and used as motivation.
Dan Hardy began training in the striking arts at a young age and was pushed to succeed by his Grandad. Not only is Dan’s Grandad his biggest fan, “he’s the one person in the world who’s got more confidence in me than I have, he’s the only person that can’t see me losing a fight,” states Hardy, he is also a mentor, training partner and life coach for the UK native:
He’s been very influential all the way through my career. The years that people normally kind of lose interest in training and whatever and start partying and whatever was when my Grandad started training with me. So he used to take me to all my training sessions, and he started Tae Kwon Do at 60 and trained through till he was 65 and those were the years that I would’ve really struggled to stay dedicated if he wasn’t there so I owe him a lot.
Training day in and day out, along with strict diets and conditioning programs needed to compete at the highest level of this sport requires a tremendous work ethic. It is no secret where Hardy’s comes from. “He’s one of those guys that worked 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, one of those people that just worked hard all his life, and yeah that’s where I get it from.”
A little over a month away from Dan Hardy’s career defining fight, he finds himself in the midst of dealing with his Grandad’s own fight. Hardy’s Grandad has had a history of heart troubles, but this time those complications are accompanied by terminal cancer. “It’s a difficult time…he’s hanging on for the moment, he’s too tough for his own good,” states Hardy. The admiration and respect Dan holds for his Grandad is obvious when he speaks of him. Does he expect his biggest fan to make it through to see him fight for the UFC Welterweight title? “I don’t think so to be honest, it’d be very optimistic if we think he’d make it to the end of the week, to be honest.” He does, however, plan for this adversity to provide motivation, “he gives me a little bit of – I don’t know whether its motivation or anger, but I’ve got that extra drive…I don’t plan on failing this test.”
Dan is spending all of the time he can with his family at the hospital between training sessions. His Grandad has been stricken to the hospital before during one of his fights, so although not an ideal, or by any means an easy set of circumstances, Dan is used to it. “I’ve been in the situation before, where you know I’ve left the hospital and gone straight to the weigh ins and back to the hospital, spend all night there and then back to the fight the next day and you know expecting to get back to the hospital and having him not being there anymore.” Asked if his fight with Georges St. Pierre would be in honor of his Grandad, Hardy solemnly confirmed, “without a doubt mate – yeah, without a doubt.”
Hardy’s adversity for this fight does not only come from his emotional journey with his family, he’s headlong into a rout of media, fighters, and armchair champions telling him he is not good enough nor does he deserve the title shot he has. “That’s not my call to make, the only thing that I’m conscious of is the fact that I’ve worked hard all my life to get myself to this position, whether it’s come a little early or not I don’t know, I know I put the work in to get here and I feel like I’ve done enough to prove myself.”
Josh Koscheck has been one of the biggest opponents of Hardy’s position and Dan responds:
He’s just bitching because I’m in this position and he’s not. There are a lot of guys out there and I know Jon Fitch said a few things the other day as well. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I’m sure those guys feel like they’re in a better position than me to contend for the belt, but they don’t know me and they don’t know what experience I’ve got and the fights I’ve come through to get to this stage. They’ve all had their chances and we know how those fights ended. Koscheck got beat up, Jon Fitch got beaten up, name it and GSP’s gone through them.
St. Pierre has found himself on the wrong end of underestimating opponents before and this time around, it seems as if he’s not falling into that trap. In recent comments, both Greg Jackson and Georges have stated that Hardy is a legitimate threat and needs to be treated as such. Is it an attempt to take away the underdog position Hardy is so used to fighting in or does Dan present a serious problem to Georges? Dan weighs in:
I think he’s a smart champion, you know the reason he’s got the belt is because he takes people very seriously and he trains hard for all his fights. I don’t think he’s saying that because he doesn’t believe it. I’m sure obviously he thinks he’s within his ability to win the fight comfortably and I think partly the reason why he’s saying that is to kind of cover his own back a little. He’s in a situation where he has to win the fight, if he loses to me that alters the direction that his career is going. It’s a bigger fight for him than it is for me, oddly enough…Georges St. Pierre is in a position where he beat everybody there is to beat and now he’s fighting guys who offer a lot greater risk than there is a gain in the fight – he’s risking a hell of a lot stepping into the Octagon with me.
Hardy envisions his title fight as an opportunity to cement his name in history. He sees it as a chance to join the ranks of the underdogs who have been counted out throughout times past:
I’m in a situation where not only can I shock the MMA world, but I can shock everybody, even people within my team. This is the Muhammad Ali in the Thrilla in Manila, the fight he was never supposed to win, or you know, Dan Gable at the 1972 Olympics, or the 83’ Raiders. The ones who have been counted out all the way throughout history that all of a sudden just applied themselves at the right point with the right game plan and the right mentality and shocked the world and people look back and get inspired by those stories, and that’s what I’m doing right now, I’m just creating that story.
To be able to write the ending Hardy is wishing for will involve having to defeat a Welterweight champion in St. Pierre that is as dominant as they come. His takedowns are punishing, his jiu jitsu continues to impress, and his wrestling is world class. There is no question that Dan Hardy will have to bring his A+ ground game to the Octagon that night to contend with St. Pierre, even if it has not recently seen any action:
I’ve not really had the opportunity or the chance to show people my ground game. I’ll be honest I’m not about winning by submission; I don’t enjoy winning by submission. I’ve got all the respect in the world for people that can take somebody down and submit them, but I like putting a beating on somebody – that’s just in my nature. The reason people don’t see my ground game is because I don’t think like a jiu jitsu guy. My intention is to put fist to face as often as possible and win the fight that way… I think I am very underestimated with my ground game and my wrestling. I’m hoping, well I know that Georges St. Pierre is the guy that can force that ground game out of me.
Dan knows he’s facing the toughest test of his career. He is aware he does not stand a chance in most eyes, and the Team Rough House fighter is preparing himself for a battle. “I’m gonna dig deep, I know it’s gonna be a war. I know I’m gonna have to suffer a little bit to get the win. And if I don’t suffer, I’ll be disappointed, because I want to feel like I’ve earned the win when I get it.”
Dan has every intention of channeling the many adversities he is facing leading up to this fight into motivation to ‘shock the world’. He has an ailing Grandad whom he wants to honor and a multitude of cynics to disprove. Dan Hardy is a fighter. Georges recently conceded that there are a lot of MMA fighters in the sport, but not a lot of MMA artists, and that was the reason he was going to win on March 27th – Hardy responds:
That’s his opinion, and my opinion is that the thing that is going to get me through this fight is the fight in me – I’m going to be able to go through hell to get to the end of this fight and I don’t think Georges can do that. That’s the difference between an athlete and a fighter. You know I’m not the most athletic guy in the world, I’m probably not the most gifted fighter out there, but I’ll grit my teeth and go toe to toe with anybody. I like those odds – that’s a fifty/fifty chance of landing my shot and I’m all for that…at the end of it I’m there, I’m just chasing glory.
Editor’s note: Dan Hardy’s Grandad – Derek Holliehead – passed away ten minutes after we spoke – he sounded like a great man.
Top MMA News offers its condolences to Dan Hardy and his family.