When Michael Bisping won the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UK’s interest in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) rocketed, now the new British superstar, Dan Hardy, is confident UK fighters can take it to the next level
“I think we have the potential to hold UFC gold one day. If we didn’t think that, we would be wasting our time in the sport. Like I always say, I’m not here to make up numbers, I intend on holding that belt one day. Michael Bisping has done a lot for the sport but he can’t continue to push MMA in the UK on his own, now he has the support of all the British lads.” Those lads include the likes of Liverpudlian’s Paul Kelly and Terry Etim, who both gained impressive victories at UFC 95 in the O2 Arena in London.
Hardy was also on the card, as a co-main event against Rory Markham, whom he knocked out in the first round; “my intention was to knock him out but I expected it to come in the later rounds, once he had slowed down a bit. I think the fact that he didn’t respect my punching power helped, it meant that he was more willing to take a shot in order to land one of his own.”
Bisping is without doubt the most well known and successful mixed martial artist, but whenever he has fought someone from the US with a strong wrestling background, such as Matt Hamill and current Light-Heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, he hasn’t looked his best, and Hardy thinks this is definitely a disadvantage to UK fighters; “We don’t have the same kind of access to wrestling as people do in the States. It will take people travelling to America to work on and improve their wrestling, it’s not impossible though. The strongest part of my game is without a doubt, my striking. Until I face other strikers in the division I won’t know how I compare, but I am very confident in my skills.”
Hardy was the British Light-Welterweight and Welterweight champion before he joined the UFC, but the level of fighters is so high in the UFC his first fight was only on the undercard of UFC 89, in which Bisping headlined. After two impressive wins over Akihiro Gono and most recently Rory Markham, Hardy is now set up for a tantalising bout with Marcus Davis at UFC 99 in Germany; “I think it will be a war from start to finish! Marcus is a tough guy and a seasoned striker and I think our fighting styles match up perfectly for an exciting bout.”
“I think out of respect, I need a couple more fights first before I get a shot at the top guys. Maybe another two fights after my fight with Davis, just to secure my position in the top five. I’m just excited to have the opportunity to be facing such good fighters as the UFC has to offer.” Such is the huge rise in interest of MMA, that the UFC has brought two or three cards over to the UK to capitalise on the popularity of the sport, and Hardy is confident that one day he could headline a UK card.
“I think I have the advantage of being British. I think the UFC could use me as a headlining fight after a couple more wins on my record. That is, of course, if the UFC keep me on the UK shows. I don’t mind at this stage though, I’m just focused on the fight, not the position on the card. Just fighting in the UFC is a dream, it’s the pinnacle of combat sports and a perfect opportunity to showcase my skills to the world.”
Hardy must surely be focused on the Welterweight title bout between Champion Georges St. Pierre and contender Thiago Alves at UFC 100, but he doesn’t quite think he’s ready for St. Pierre just yet; “I think with GSP I win one out of three ranges at the moment, I have the striking and he has the wrestling and Brazilian Ju Jitsu. I’m certainly not far behind though, with a couple more training camps and a couple more wins, I will be ready. His fight with Alves is an interesting one; I think wrestling will be a huge factor in this fight. It depends on whether GSP can get a takedown and whether Alves can stay standing long enough to do damage.”
Whether or not Hardy is ready for a title shot remains to be seen, but one thing that’s certain is that if MMA keeps on growing at the pace it has for the last ten years, Hardy is on the right track to become a British sporting superstar.