Dan Hardy: The Highest of Highs, The Lowest of Lows

Dan Hardy at the UFC 111 pre-fight press conference

Dan Hardy

Hardy and family share the trials and tribulations

The journey of a fighter is more than the sum of wins and losses. For those who dedicate their lives to testing their skill inside of the cage, victory is often the ultimate goal.

While a select few ever make it to the pinnacle of the sport, their finest moments in the limelight can cast a shadow for others. It is a road just as much paved by capitalizing on split-second opportunities as it is with momentary lapses in judgment. In one moment, countless hours of physical and mental labor can come together beautifully or completely fall apart.

Few fighters know this feeling as well as Dan Hardy.

The former number one contender to the welterweight crown has experienced one of the most rapid rises and falls in mixed martial arts. Winning his first four outings and then coming up on the short end of the following four, Hardy finds himself in the curious position of being a highly marketable fighter on an awful losing streak.

“The Outlaw” stormed onto the scene with a brand of charisma that quickly turned him into one of the most polarizing fighters in the UFC. His first four outings in the UFC were impressive wins, earning him the opportunity to challenge Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title.

It was a dream come true for the kid from Nottingham, but it wouldn’t last. The losing streak makes that night with Georges St. Pierre seem like so long ago. While we often are given a look into the minds of the fighters involved in these battles, we are rarely allowed to see how it affects those who know him best.

“I think my rise to the title shot was, in many ways, a lot faster than most people experience,” Hardy explained. “I had a couple of good wins and beating Mike Swick brought a lot of focus to me. That fight was a late replacement because I was meant to fight Don Hyun Kim, but he got injured. Swick came in and he was the number one contender and it was my night that night, so that catapulted me into the title picture. It wasn’t my intention, but I couldn’t pass it up. I expected to get another three or four fights and work my way up through the levels where I could build myself.”

“I jumped up by taking the GSP fight, and that puts you in the upper echelon of the division. From there you only get the toughest fights, and I had no real chance to adapt or evolve. It was very difficult because after a fight, there are so many things to look at and work on in the gym that I never got the time to really invest in a solid education in jiu-jitsu and wrestling. Having an opponent pull out and then facing and defeating the number one contender, with that resulting in my earning a title shot? Those are tests that I accepted. If something is offered to me then I’m going to do it.”

Dan’s father Mark Hardy also provided personal insight into some of the factors he witnessed as his son rose to UFC stardom.

“We watched him before he got his contract with the UFC and it was always a roller coaster. You want him to win, and you want to be there for him, but you don’t want to see him get hurt. You want to support him in everything he does. He has had a tough time recently and going back to the GSP fight, he lost his granddad before that fight and that was probably the toughest thing I’ve had to watch him go through.”

“He’s not won a fight since that happened, and we’ve told him that it’s affected him more than he believes. More than anything else we come to the fights to make sure he is okay. And afterwards, I look into his eyes and I can see if he’s okay. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to make sure he’s safe and uninjured.”

Long time girlfriend Elizabeth Holloway talked about how the loss of his grandfather Derek and a rising profile began to take hold.

“The GSP fight was particularly difficult for Dan because his grandfather, Derek, had become very ill shortly before. Also, we were apart for the 9 weeks leading up to the fight and it gets frustrating being apart for months at a time. He was doing 2-3 sessions a day, not showering, and going straight to the hospital to spend any available time he could find with his grandfather. Dan credits Derek with keeping his interest alive in martial arts. Every pre-teen questions dedication to sports in the face of maturity and freedom, so Derek actually enrolled in Tae Kwon Do classes with Dan to support him. Dan’s grandfather passed away a couple of weeks before UFC 111.”

“After the GSP fight, everything exploded overnight. Every day for him was non-stop publicity, hungry sponsors, and added paperwork. People we didn’t know were piling out of the woodwork to get close to him in any way they could. Camera crews were by his side in the weeks leading up to the fight. Training alone can be very overwhelming, but add a devastating family death, a relentless spotlight, a title shot against someone with a fan base like GSP and you have a recipe for a breakdown. All of this is normal for a top 10 UFC fighter, but I think that most achieve this through a comfortable transition, and Dan had to do it seemingly overnight.”

Despite the loss to St. Pierre, Hardy’s stock as a proven draw in the UFC was solidified. He had officially become the new flag bearer for “The British Invasion of MMA.” Not wanting to lose momentum, he looked to get back on track against Carlos Condit.

Mark Hardy shared his thoughts about Dan’s decision to fight Condit.

“We talked about him taking some time after the GSP fight, but he gained so much attention from that opportunity, I think going into the fight with Condit it all just got to him. He wasn’t himself and he became too arrogant to the point where he thought he would just walk through Carlos Condit. And obviously that proved not to be true.”