For the man they call "The Outlaw," May's welterweight match-up in UFC 146 against Duane Ludwig might as well have been High Noon in front of the Last Chance Saloon. A loss would have put Dan Hardy's career in jeopardy. A win was the only option.
But the Dan Hardy who stood in the Octagon on that night was a different man than the one who had suffered a crisis of motivation in the months following a championship bout loss to Georges St-Pierre in March of 2010. Standing across from Ludwig was a man who had rediscovered his focus in a new team, new training, and a new emphasis on his love for MMA. The result was a Round One knockout, as Hardy connected with a vicious left hook followed by a ground-and-pound. Ludwig scarcely knew what hit him.
Suddenly Dan Hardy is pointed in the right direction again and will face "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham, England on September 29th. For Hardy, it will be a triumphant return to his hometown, in front of fans that have cheered him on throughout his career.
Recently, we talked to Dan about his spectacular return to form, his new training philosophy, and his renewed prospects for a UFC title belt.
Dan Hardy: It is in my nature to demand better performances from myself, and after the title fight [against St-Pierre] it seems I was pushing in the wrong direction and pushing myself too hard. After a bad streak, picking up a few losses, I knew I needed to make some changes and through Frank Mir I saw a great team and structure for training that made sense.
ProSource: How is the Dan Hardy of 2012 a better fighter than the Dan Hardy of 2010?
Dan Hardy: The way I saw it, I won my first four fights in the UFC and lost the next four, so I was effectively back at square one. I needed to start fresh with a new team of coaches and a different approach. Now I have refocused myself and am more determined than ever. I have coaches that manage my schedule, make sure I'm resting enough and hitting my goals. I feel like a professional athlete for the first time.
ProSource: You took a little extra time off before this fight, which was a big fight in terms of your career. You have suggested you needed time to get your head together a little and rediscover your love for fighting. Clearly, you've been successful. Can you describe that process of regaining your focus?
Dan Hardy: I just needed to step away and get some perspective on the situation. After dropping a couple of fights I was so deep in the situation, surrounded my negativity, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I'm in the premier organization in the world, I'm training all day, I get to do a lot of cool stuff and travel a lot. I realized that I should be having fun and I wasn't.
I wanted to be excited about training and learning again. To have that desire to be better than my opponent and put on a show to demonstrate my ability and my hard work. After that I began shedding some dead weight, things and people that weren't adding to a positive and productive environment. After that process began, everything else fell into place.
ProSource: Your conditioning looked superb against Ludwig. What were your top training goals going into this fight? Can you describe your new training regimen in some detail?
Dan Hardy: I wanted to feel athletic, to not be carrying too much weight and feel sluggish like my fights before. I did a lot of conditioning at altitude, running hills and hiking, cycling and stretching. My technical sessions were shorter and more focused, drilling techniques to unlearn bad habits. My sparring sessions had game plans, things to achieve against a live opponent. Overall there was a much better balance, less time spent running from one gym to another, and more rest.
ProSource: Are supplements a big part of your training regimen and diet? How do they help?
Dan Hardy: I try to get most of what I need from food and use supplements as exactly what they should be, supplementary. It's difficult with so much going on though to get all of the calories and vitamins that I need in a day. I use a Xyience whey protein (XY-PRO) a couple of times a day, usually mixing it with fruit or vegetable juice. The vanilla ice cream flavor mixed with apple and carrot juice is amazing. It gives me something to look forward to after training!
I also use Xyience's Xelerate to give my body a boost and burn a few extra calories when the weight cut gets closer. Other than that I supplement fish oils, multi vitamins, green tea, etc., just to keep myself healthy. For convenience and to aid recovery the right supplements are essential, it's always worth investing a little to keep your body functioning at its best.
ProSource: You're back on track, and your enormous fan base is delighted. What's next for Dan Hardy? Where do you want to be in 2013?
Dan Hardy: Well, there is still a lot of 2012 left yet and I hope to get at least one more fight in before it comes to an end. The UFC announced a show in my hometown of Nottingham for late September so it looks like I will be on that. After I have picked up another win and I am firmly back on track, I can step into 2013 with a little fire in my belly and see where my career takes me.
ProSource: Thanks for sharing with our readers, Dan. And best of luck in September.
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