The UFC’s British talent pool swelled significantly today with the announcement that dynamic welterweight Dan ‘The Outlaw’ Hardy - widely considered one of the most exciting talents in Europe - has signed with the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.
Boasting a 19-6, 1 no contest MMA record punctuated with wins over world class opposition, the highly touted Nottingham, England native storms into the UFC’s stacked 170lbs division aiming to make a dramatic and immediate impact.
Hardy said: “It means everything to finally be at the pinnacle of mixed martial arts. Even kids who have never taken a martial arts class in their life dream about fighting in the UFC– it is the Premier League of MMA and there was nowhere else I wanted to be. I cannot wait to step into the Octagon and showcase myself on the biggest stage in MMA.”
Considered to be one of the top talents in Europe, the pink and purple Mohawked Tae Kwon Do black belt has yet to learn when or where his UFC debut will take place but, having beaten two good opponents in the last three weeks, he said he is in razor sharp form and ready for the call.
“I feel I’ve come to the UFC at exactly the right time,” he said. “Since the UFC came back to England last spring, everywhere I’ve gone people have asked me when I was going to sign with the UFC and why I wasn’t in the UFC yet.
“The plan was always to fight in the UFC when I felt I was 100% ready. But there were things I felt, as a fighter, I needed to work on before I made my UFC debut. I probably could have fought in the UFC before now, but I wanted to work on my skills, my BJJ and my wrestling. I have trained as a striker since I was six years old, but have really worked very hard on my ground game over the last four years, including working with Eddie Bravo out in the States, and I feel I've got one of the most well rounded games of any fighter in Europe."
He added: "I didn't want to be in the UFC to make up the numbers. Reaching the UFC is an achievement in itself, of course, but after fighting in America and Japan, after having fought and beaten world ranked contenders in high pressure situations, I now feel my experience and ability is at a level where I can come into the UFC and not just have a few good fights, but really do things.”
And Hardy, who turns 26 on Saturday, felt it was vital to enter the UFC as an active fighter and not make his UFC debut coming off of a significant lay-off.
To that end, he made up for a 11th hour cancellation of a US bout last month by taking on and beating two good opponents on two different shows in the UK within a fortnight of each other.
First, in what he said was one of the three best performances of his career, the Outlaw stopped UFC veteran Chad Reiner on a Cage Warriors show on April 19. Then, two weeks after that - and in a gutsy move typical of his fighting style - Hardy risked his yet unsigned UFC deal by facing Daniel Weichel in a small hall show in northern England.
“After eight years of dreaming about it, I had a UFC contract waiting for me to sign and send back to Las Vegas,” Hardy said. “I literally had my hands on it, on the day of the fight and could have just signed it and become a UFC fighter and to hell with the fight that night. But I wanted to come to the UFC with as much momentum as possible, I wanted to fight."
It was a risky move, but one Hardy felt he needed to take.
"I'd not fought since 2007 and didn't want any rust to set in," he said. "But when I stepped into the arena, it suddenly occurred to me just what was on the line in this fight... I was close to getting into the UFC, but if I lost this fight I knew I could kiss that goodbye.”
Hardy admitted the pressure of not jeopardizing his UFC deal hamstrung his performance early on: “I thought just what was on the line for me, and that brought its own pressure. But I’ve fought hometown (favourites) in Japan and dealt with other high pressure situations before. After a couple of minutes I settled into the fight and stopped him in the second round.”
Now the path is clear for one of Great Britain’s best hopes for UFC gold to walk the aisle towards the Octagon.
It is a prospect which already has the British forums ablaze with speculation and excitement; such is the Outlaw’s reputation as a crowd pleaser in his native land.
However, Hardy said: “It is great to have the support of the British MMA crowd, but I don’t feel any pressure to prove myself to be the most exciting fighter to come out of the UK.
“I’m thrilled I am considered one of the most exciting fighters out there, but it is not something I am conscious of when I fight. I don’t think ‘I have got to be as exciting as possible again tonight’, I just fight my fight in my usual style.”
But that usual style happens to be a high-octane, not-stop assault which is a joy to watch. Be sure to catch the Outlaw when he rides into town sometime later this summer.