The Shaolin Punk rises in Milwaukee.
Welterweight Dan Hardy shot to title contention on the strength of a powerful left hook and razor sharp wit, but “The Outlaw” now has his back against the wall after losing three straight fights. Most fighters in his position go back to the drawing board, but the headstrong Brit has chosen to evolve his game rather than rebuild it.
“I think because I started at such a young age and have trained in so many styles, I have a system of training that I know works for me. I can make my training sessions more focused and cut down on the unnecessary stuff that I don’t need to add to my game. I also have a lot of techniques that I have drilled into my brain at a young age I can draw on to catch my opponent off guard.”
This Sunday night at UFC on Versus 5, Hardy will face slugger Chris Lytle in the card’s main event. While Lytle is also coming off a recent setback, the Indianapolis native has made his name as a fighter that never quits and always shows up to fight. Those attributes have Hardy excited to mix it up. “Fights can get very boring when one guy is playing it very safe and not trying to take the fight from their opponent. In order to beat an opponent within the distance, usually you have to at least expose yourself a little and some people don’t want to take that risk. Chris isn’t that kind of guy and he will try to take the fight from me, and that will give me the opportunity to take the fight from him. Neither of us are scared of taking risks and that is what makes this fight so exciting.”
While Hardy’s striking is considered to be among the best in the division, his seeming lack of ability to stop takedowns have garnered criticism. To remedy this part of his skill set he has made a change in his training camp, splitting time between Las Vegas and England. The results have him confident he’ll be prepared, no matter where the fight takes place. “I feel awesome right now…the move to Vegas was a smart choice and I really see it paying off come fight night. Roy Nelson has put a lot of time into me and my camp has taken on quite a different structure, which gives me a very fresh outlook on my career. It was time to change things up and put myself in a different situation to force some self evolution.”
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Hardy elaborated about the matchup with Lytle. “But it’s not about whether the fight goes to the ground or not. I have seen many boring striking fights. It’s the intention of the fighter that matters. The equivalent to the lay and pray fighter is the striker that doesn’t engage. If the fighter comes to fight, no matter where the fight goes it will be exciting. Chris is an aggressive and active fighter at every range so it doesn’t matter where the fight happens.”
As Hardy continues to refine and progress his grappling skills, he compares the challenge to the work he has invested to become a powerful striker.
“I think years spent hitting bags and pads develops an ability to land shots with speed and power that can’t be earned over a short period of time. On the other hand, years of drilling in wrestling and jiu-jitsu makes it second nature, but there are a lot of techniques in both styles that aren’t suitable for MMA, whereas striking is a lot more straight forward and usable in the Octagon.”
“The Shaolin Punk thing is in reference to my training and mindset of a few years ago, when I was out in China training with the monks. After my last fight I spent some time on my own, thinking over my journey through martial arts and remembering what I have put myself through to get to where I am. The time I spent in China was tough both physically and mentally, but I made some real progress while I was there, not only as a martial artist but as a person. Reminding myself of those struggles reminds me how to dig deep during training and what it takes to get better.
Hardy also let his fans know what to expect when he steps into the octagon this weekend in Milwaukee. “The fans are going to see The Shaolin Punk! The Mixed Martial Outlaw, the guy that comes for a war and doesn’t take a backward step.”