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

Carlos Condit

The loss to Condit – and the unanimous decision defeat against Anthony Johnson that followed – put Hardy in the unenviable position of having dropped three consecutive bouts. For many fighters a third loss in a row is followed by walking papers. When the UFC announced that he would face veteran Chris Lytle in Milwaukee, Hardy knew his time in the UFC could be hanging by a thread.

“You can’t block out that pressure. When I arrived at the arena for the fight with Chris, I did an interview and that was the first question I was asked. It’s always in the back of your mind, and as I’ve shown there aren’t many people in the world that can get a raise as quickly as I can then be in jeopardy of losing the job. It’s a high pressure situation.”

Holloway added, “After his first loss to GSP he was devastated, but the silver lining was in how surprised fans were to see how he went the distance and battled through. All of a sudden everyone had an opinion on what he should be doing with his training, his diet, etc. When you start hearing things like this, eventually you not only start questioning your knowledge, but your abilities as well. I wouldn’t say his self-confidence was shot, but I definitely have seen a different person emerge from all of this. He’s now someone who has to validate his life’s work every day because he added four numbers to his record. People aren’t talking about him as a contender – they are talking about him as a survivor to employment.”

“He has been an underdog in most of his fights, but after his losses to Condit and Johnson, the hatred from the peanut gallery erupted. There was a lot of talk from the media who now felt he didn’t belong in the UFC. He was on blast for not having enough wrestling, enough Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and enough wins over top competition. I wish there was something I could do to show people his work ethic, his generous heart and his good character, but that isn’t my place. That isn’t what people want to hear.”

When Hardy stepped into the Octagon to face Lytle it appeared to be a situation that was all or nothing. At the official weigh-ins, Lytle announced this fight would be his last. This created all the more buzz to the possibility of this being the final time either man would be seen in the UFC. Going into the fight both men vowed to stand and trade until one of them dropped and they stayed true to their word. The bout ended with Lytle latching onto a guillotine choke in the final minute of the contest, forcing Hardy to tap and handing him his fourth consecutive loss.

“It was the fight I expected. I knew that Chris was going to bite down and that he was going to take a punch. And I knew he was going to throw some as well. It was a good fight and I enjoyed myself, but obviously I would’ve liked to come out with the win. I have no shame in losing to Chris.”

“I was feeling before the fight that regardless of how it went, I was going to take some time off after the fight and really invest some time in the gym. I want to see how I feel after that. Obviously there are some things I need to work on and I want to be more of a well-rounded fighter. I want to be able to go in there and perform at a much higher level than I am at right now. I made that decision before this fight and obviously how things went, it only reinforced it. “

“You’ve got to be really confident in your skills and in your game in order to brush those things off. I don’t feel like I’m doing that. I know there are things that need work and I need the time to do it. If I don’t invest that time then I’m just going to fade away. I’m 29 years old and if I want to take 12 months off I can do that without worrying about my prime so to speak. If the UFC would be willing to wait I know I can come back in impressive form. I’d rather take that time and come back to make another run or step away entirely and do something else.”

Ever the loving father, Mark takes great pride in the path his son has traveled. With Dan standing at the crossroads of his career, he only wants him to do what he has always done – continue to chase his dreams.

“He loves what he does. Obviously we sometimes wish we hadn’t taken him to Tae Kwon Do when he was six, but he enjoys what he does and that’s enough for us. Success and failure doesn’t make a difference because my son has pursued talents that have taken him around the world and back. We are very proud of him. Dan is a good guy. He’s so sharp and I believe this is the reason fans take to him as much as they have.”

“He lost to a legend in Chris Lytle – and there is no shame in that – but it may be time for him to step away for a bit and clear his head. Take a break, reevaluate some things and see what he wants to do with his life. It’s great that the UFC is giving him another chance because he will come back bigger and stronger than before. I don’t think he can get much uglier so there isn’t a lot of worry in that department.”

Holloway shared her insight on what she hopes for Dan in the future.

“I hope that he allows himself to step away from the critics and finds that young-minded passion for martial arts that I’ve seen in him before. He genuinely loves fighting and I hope he can distance himself from the elements that mutate it. The media, hateful fans, politics and red tape all take their toll along the way in some fashion. We will probably do some traveling, go see family, and give ourselves a reminder there are bigger plans in the works other than another loss on his record.”

On a journey filled with accomplishments and setbacks, Dan Hardy’s resolve remains unaffected. Where most fighters cling to the moments of glory, Hardy’s pursuit of a better self has always been and will continue to be the thing he covets the most.

“I’m never going to back away from anything. I’m in the sport for much more than things like holding belts. I’m in this for myself and my personal journey. I do it for my personal development and you have to put yourself in the trenches if you want to find out who you are as a person. If I look at my eight fights in the UFC, going back to my first against Gono at UFC 89…that isn’t even me anymore. That feels like a completely different person because I’ve learned so much about myself and evolved as an individual over the past few years. I attribute that to putting myself in those difficult situations.”

Authors note: After spending time with Dan Hardy, his family and girlfriend Elizabeth Hollaway I wanted to say thank you for allowing me the access. I was also very pleased to hear upon returning home from Milwaukee, Dan got down on one knee and asked Elizabeth to marry him…a proposal she happily accepted. So begins another exciting journey for Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy and congrats mate!