Dan Hardy Is Ready To Silence The Critics (And Johnson)

Dan Hardy

Hardy over Condit loss and prepared to make a statement

Did you know that Dan Hardy is only days away from making his 2011 debut?

No? You’re not alone. Unlike his last four fights, the normally boisterous and media savvy Briton has maintained a fairly low profile heading into his Fight Night 24 meeting with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Part of that stems from a pair of high profile defeats suffered by the Nottingham native in 2010.

While Hardy garnered a great deal of attention and time in the spotlight by facing off with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, he came out on the wrong end of a very one-sided fight. Seven months later on his home soil, Carlos Condit dropped Hardy with a well-timed counter left hook, sending him crashing to the canvas with a second straight loss.

Five months later, Hardy is still kicking himself over the mistakes he made against Condit, but for now, his focus is trained on Johnson, even though the lack of trash talk might make you think otherwise. While the lack of success in 2010 is part of the reason, there’s a simpler answer to Hardy’s silence as well.

“I think [the lack of talking] is a combination of a few things. Firstly, I get on quite well with Anthony Johnson; we always get on quite well when we’ve seen each other at events and stuff. Secondly, he never bites to trash talk anyway; he just either ignores it or responds with a friendly reply, so its kind of difficult to get someone riled up if they don’t bite.

“The other thing is, you know, I don’t need to say anything for this fight; the proof is going to be in the performance. I had a bad year last year and I’m angry about last year. I work hard and I certainly don’t think I deserved the second loss.

“I know it was my fault, it was a silly mistake I made, but I’m annoyed that I let that happen and I’m ready for this year to be a much better year. The start of this year has gone really well, and I’ve got a new focus. I’m just ready to show the world that I’m not finished yet.”

Despite just being one fight removed from facing St. Pierre for the welterweight title, Hardy has slipped off the radar in the 170-pound ranks of late. His back-to-back defeats combined with the return of B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez has reshuffled the deck in the division, with the Brit moving further back in the stack as a result.

It’s an understandable turn of events, but also one that motivates Hardy as he prepares to embark on his 2011 campaign in the cage.

“I’m very eager to prove I still belong in the welterweight title picture. I didn’t get a lot of respect heading into the title fight; most people counted me out, and said that I didn’t deserve the title shot. Regardless of whether I did or I didn’t, I had a job to do, and all I could do at the time was give it everything I’ve got, and I did that, and I think a lot of people realized I did that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position where I could take the belt off Georges and you’ve got to respect him for that; he is the champ and the man we’re all aiming for at the moment.

“The Condit fight was just a silly mistake on my part. I think I gained a bit of confidence from the GSP fight, and I didn’t respect anything that Condit had; I thought it was going to be a fairly one-sided fight and I think that was the cause. I made a silly mistake; I didn’t have the respect I should have had for him and I got caught. I mean, if I fought him ten times, I still think I’d have won nine of them, it’s just unfortunate that the one he won was broadcast on national TV.

Dan Hardy at the UFC 111 pre-fight press conference

Dan Hardy

“But I’m not done yet. I know that this next fight is going to be good, it’s going to be a successful night for me, and I’m planning on getting at least another two good wins this year. I’m hoping one of them’s going to be over Condit because if he thinks he’s seen the last of me, he’s got another thing coming.”

Before any rematches with Condit can even be discussed, Hardy has to first get through Johnson, a once highly regarded prospect who has been sidelined by injuries for the last 15 months. In addition to wondering how the 27-year-old will respond to being out of the cage for over a year, Johnson must also continually answer the questions about his weight that following him into every fight.

Having missed weight in 25 percent of his UFC bouts, many, including UFC President Dana White, have spoken openly about their desire to see Johnson move up to the middleweight, but the Atlanta native remains focused on competing at 170 pounds, even if it means shedding in excess of 50 pounds in preparation for a fight. It’s a subject that Hardy has been forced to think about as he prepares to face Johnson on Saturday night in Seattle, but it doesn’t change his outlook on the fight itself.

“My job is to fight, and regardless of what weight he comes in at, I still want to fight him. I’m going to have done weeks of training, then get in there and see he’s a few pounds heavy and turn the fight down. It’s going to be him that loses the respect of the fans and from the UFC if he comes in overweight again. We all know that he’s had the long time off, and we all know that his weight got up really high in that time off, so if he’s taking the fight at welterweight and he’s assured everyone he’s going to make weight than the pressure is on him.

“If he’s heavy it just means he’s got more chins for me to hit. It’s all going to work in my benefit because he’s fighting the scales, not me. My weight is good and I’m ready; I could make weight tomorrow if I wanted to, so the pressure is on him, not me.”

Regardless of what the scale reads when Johnson steps on it Friday afternoon, Hardy says it’s not going to make a difference anyway. He feels Johnson’s desire to always be the bigger man when the cage door closes speaks to his state of mind stepping into the cage.

“Anthony Johnson is the same physically as Anderson Silva; he’s six-foot-two, 78-inch reach. He’s a big guy. In my opinion, I’m about as big as you can get for welterweight to make the weight regularly and safely and for it to not affect your performance, and he’s bigger than me. Every time I see him, we always have a joke about what weight class he’s in.

“I think he feels like he needs to be bigger than his opponent, and that shows something about his mental strength, his psychological place. The difference between me and him, he might have a a slight size advantage and maybe a slight strength advantage, but physical strength fades and my mental strength will be there for the full 15 minutes, as you saw with the GSP fight.”

While many have bumped Hardy back in the rankings now that he’s lost two-in-a-row, he may actually be a better fight heading into Saturday night than he was the night he fought for the welterweight title. He’s grown through his losses and found a renewed hunger to prove he belongs amongst the best in the 170-pound division.

He’s also quieted down some, but it just wouldn’t feel right without a verbal jab at Johnson before they meet this weekend in Seattle, so Hardy wanted to share his prediction for how the fight is going to go:

“Well the first round, I’m going to hit him 300 times in the face, he’s going to miss every single punch. I think that he’s going to go back to his corner after the first round and he’s going to be panicked and frustrated, and in the second round, he’s going to expose himself because he’s panicked and frustrated, and the fight is going to come to an end quickly and painfully.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish any personal harm on him, but he did ask for the fight and he has positioned himself in front of me. I’ve got a job to do and I’m going to do it as violently as possible.”

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