Daniel Hardy walked away from his studies at Nottingham Trent University nearly ten years ago to pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts. In doing so, he embarked on a journey that will reach one of its highs when he takes part in one of the main events of UFC 120 at the O2 Arena this Saturday against America’s Carlos Condit.

Performing in front of a 20,000 strong capacity crowd for an organization with a net value of $2.5 billion, “The Outlaw” has that ability so rarely found in icons of sport to combine prominence with humility. The opportunity to compete at the nation’s premier entertainment venue in a main event capacity will, to some degree, see Hardy’s career come full circle from when he first started learning Tae Kwon Do as a youth.

Mixed Martial Arts is a full contact contest between two individuals which combines a variety of martial art disciplines and fighting styles. The result is a diverse range of fighters competing against each other; from standing Muay-Thai and boxing specialists to experts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling. As the superlative Mixed Martial Arts organisation in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) showcases matches between the world’s greatest fighters across various weight divisions. Alongside a formalisation of the rules and a very impressive business model the popularity and revenue intake of the UFC have reached heights that are beginning to eclipse rivalling industries such as boxing and professional wrestling.

With such global success from a commercial perspective, a truly international UFC roster has come to compliment this. Dan Hardy joins English fighters Michael Bisping and John Hathaway as Great Britain’s finest exports into the world of MMA and this is especially apparent when one considers Hardy’s record prior to the upcoming fight with Condit. Born in Nottingham, he entered the UFC with a record of 19-6 that saw him travel to the likes of Holland, Japan and the United States to compete. Hardy’s appearance is a unique sight as he crosses the UFC Octagon’s threshold (the caged enclosure that stages UFC bouts). Sporting an aggressively artistic bandana and a dyed red Mohawk, his image puts a compelling spin on a refined striking approach that saw the 28-year-old storm his way into Welterweight title shot contention. The opportunity came knocking for The Outlaw after he notched up four straight wins over world-class competitors including veterans Akihiro Gono and Mike Swick to set up a tantalising contest at UFC 111 with reigning Welterweight champion, Georges “Rush” St. Pierre.

The title bout with St. Pierre was a highly publicised encounter with Hardy labelled the underdog. Pierre held a sensational MMA record of 19-2 before the fight, with 13 wins coming from his time in the UFC. Previously credited as the most complete Mixed Martial Artist in the sport, all spectators watched with intent to see if the Hardy could overcome what was without a doubt the greatest challenge of his career. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Georges St. Pierre retained his crown via a unanimous decision after a gruelling 25 minute contest over five rounds. However, out of defeat came some small measure of reassurance for Dan Hardy, who escaped two two submission attempts and go the distance with the champion; a feat only accomplished by a small group of the world’s greatest Welterweights before him, such as Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck and B.J. Penn. Winning over many of the critics who had dismissed his ambitions before they had even been put into practice, Dan Hardy had found a new level of respect amongst peers and viewers of the sport alike with the notable exception of one individual, Carlos Condit.

Carlos “Natural Born Killer” Condit was quick to call out Dan Hardy following his loss to St. Pierre and once the fight was officially confirmed for October early in the summer, the war of words between the two continued to escalate. In recent interviews, Hardy has asserted his intention to use his formidable strength and power to bully Condit, whose physical frame is more suited to a game plan in takedown submission wrestling. Meanwhile, Condit has insisted that the fight’s location in Dan Hardy’s home country and any subsequent hostility from the crowd will not faze the New Mexican, who holds a 2-1 record in the UFC.

With so much discussion over Hardy’s striking abilities, it would be wrong to assume the man is a one-dimensional competitor, which he will be hoping to prove to Condit this Saturday, on an evening packed with many explosive, fast-paced fighters who will put on a spectacle worth seeing.

Impact caught up with Steve Papp, Hardy’s Nottingham-based head coach, who offered a professional insight into Hardy’s preparation for UFC 120 as well as a number of other topics. A full interview with Steve will soon be uploaded to University Radio Nottingham at urn1350.net

Steve Papp on:

The experience of facing Georges St. Pierre –

“As an entire team, it was a privilege… Once the initial excitement was over, we knuckled down for our training camp. The camp for that particular fight was over 14 weeks long…For Dan himself, it made him realise the level of fitness and skill he was going to require at that level. GSP, as a world champion is probably a one off, he seems to be strong in all areas of Mixed Martial Arts, there aren’t many fighters in the world like GSP….For Dan, the fight exposed all his weaknesses as an up and coming fighter, which he can now focus on for the next world title fight that we have. ”

Any potential pressure on Hardy to defeat Carlos Condit by knockout –

“We’ve got a specific game plan. That’s one of the beauties of working with Dan, he’s a very articulate guy. When I come up with a game plan we can discuss it together and come to an agreement over particular tactics. With the Condit fight, we’re not going out to prove anything. This is just another stepping stone so we can bring Dan back into contention for a title shot. If we do that by a points victory then so be it, if we do it through a knockout then so be it…I think the fight will end up probably being stood up but on the same token, Dan has started with a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor who’s put in a lot of new ideas for Dan’s ground game. At the moment, Dan is developing to be a far more all-round fighter…The best mentality to have when you step into a fight is to see it strictly as business, when you’re in the cage regardless of all the publicity and all they hype, its all about whose done their training correctly and who’s got their fitness right.”

Local fighters with the potential to reach the level of Dan Hardy and Michael Bisping –

“There are a couple of guys in the Rough House camp [Nottingham’s premier MMA Academy]. There’s one guy in particular and his name is Jimmy Wallhead; he’s got quite an extensive MMA record but unfortunately the UFC have neglected to sign him. There’s Andre Winner who’s already signed on with the UFC, I think Andre will go on and do some quite impressive things, he’s a very determined fighter. Dean Amasinger fought in the UFC, he’s back into fighting now having not long recovered from a broken arm. At the same time there are a lot of local shows happening, there’s one on November 20th that will showcase a lot of local fighters, I have two guys fighting on that show…I must say in relation to MMA, the East Midlands has a very good circuit.”

The raw attributes necessary to any fighter starting a career –

“It all about determination, sometimes it’s not necessarily about skill. I think one of the reasons that I’ve always liked the fight game is that you can get fighters that are not necessarily that skilful in relation to their coordination and their physical attributes but if they’ve got good determination and a good heart then that will take them a long way. As a coach, that’s what I look for; that strong mindset in an individual.”

Aidan O’Connor

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