A chat with UFC fighter Dan Hardy: Part Two

In the first part of our interview with Dan Hardy, the UFC fighter discussed his feelings toward allowing cardiologists to put wires into his heart to determine the extent of his Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome in order to be cleared to fight. In Part Two, Dan discusses fighter pay, his sponsor’s reaction to his heart condition, his WolfCam training videos, his views on Carlos Condit, the mental edge of athletics and passing on learned lessons.

Mike Furci: Well, as much as I would love to see you fight like many other MMA fans, I have to agree with your decision. What has your sponsor’s reaction been to this situation?

Dan Hardy: You know what? I really can’t thank my sponsor enough. I really expected it to cause all kinds of problems and it’s really not. Venomfight and Xyience are just behind me all the way. They’re still selling my shirts, my shorts and Xyience is still promoting me. It’s refreshing because it’s given me a little bit of time to really get this figured out without having to worry about getting to a fight to pay bills.

It really means a lot. You know, obviously in a situation like this, it would be quite easy to turn their back and move onto the next fighter, but that’s not been the case. I don’t just feel like a commodity now; I truly feel like part of the team.

MF: That’s a hell of a tribute and says a lot about those two corporations – Venum and Xyience. So what’s this I hear you’re claiming to be in the best shape of your life? What’s different about your training now and what are some of the reasons you believe you’re in such great shape?

Dan: Well, this situation with the Wolf-Parkinson-White kind of lit a fire in my ass and my solution to being disallowed to fight is to prove that I’m able to fight by physically just being far better than I have before. I’m not getting beat up as much, I’m not doing the sparing and that type of stuff, so I’m able to train for much longer and I’m doing a lot of yoga. The thing is, the studio is so hot – I mean it’s a 90-minute session and I lose about eight pounds a session. I’m really working on my flexibility. Just basically all-around fitness and flexibility is what I’m going for. It’s kind of funny that my career is potentially coming to an end and I’m actually just finding my stride in my training camp. Totally ironic.

MF: Speaking of training, can you talk a little bit about the WolfCam and your series of training videos that you’ve got YouTube?

Dan: Yeah. Well, I was getting a lot of questions about training, and so the best way for me to answer these questions was just to make a video available. My intention is just to kind of show people what I am doing. Really, I’m not trying to educate anybody or say, “You should be doing this.” You know, if I can make this information available, then hopefully someone will benefit from it. And the feedback from people who are doing my training sessions has been very positive.

MF: You seem to be an outspoken person when it comes to the welfare of fighters. Can you expand on something that fans and I really know little about, and that’s fighter pay? I know it’s a touchy subject, but can you talk a little bit about that?

Dan: Sure, yeah. It is kind of a touchy subject, and everyone walks on eggshells when it comes to this kind of stuff. But the reality is it’s a situation that we’re in because we don’t really have many options of making money outside the UFC. The sponsorship situation is quite difficult; we can’t just work with any sponsors. It limits the amount of sponsorship available to us, because they have to pay the UFC first, so we have to be very, very creative and try to find seminars and that kind of stuff. But if you’re one of those guys that are fortunate enough to have a lot of success in the sport then it’s really not an issue for you.

But those guys who are starting out, and guys that may have like a 50/50 record in the UFC, it’s very difficult to make ends meet sometimes. I’ve been fortunate because I don’t have a particularly expensive lifestyle. But there are some fighters out there that are single parents and that kind of stuff. You know, it can be frustrating. And that really takes away from a fighter’s performance. But when you have to be so concerned about the money that you’re making, it puts pressure on you — it takes away from your performance and your ability to perform at your best. Especially fighters that have to worry about finding part-time jobs just to pay the bills.

MF: So even the lower-tiered fighters – which aren’t making much – if they’re contracted with the UFC, there are not really any alternatives available to them to add to that income because of the contracts. Is that right?

Dan: The UFC invests a lot of money into the fighters and they want to make sure that someone that they’ve built up and advertised is not going to take that somewhere else to another organization, which obviously makes sense, you know? We’re such a young sport, you know, we’re still in our infancy. The UFC has done a good job of keeping a hold of it. We could have had large organizations springing up and causing all kinds of problems, dangerous practices and all that kind of stuff, and we’re actually fortunate that the UFC are such a professional organization and have really put the sport in the mainstream in the right way. But now the money’s coming in an the sport’s growing.

MF: Looking back on some of your past fights – and I know this has got to be a tough question – but what are your favorites and what are the reasons?

Dan: You know, they all played such a huge role in the growth of my martial arts. I mean, the Condit fight – as strange as it may sound – is probably the most pivotal point in my career because it’s the first time I’ve been knocked out in a fight and I literally felt like I’d got up off the canvas an entirely different person. It was really strange.

Going into the fight, I’d come off five rounds with GSP and I’d been told so many nice things by so many people from the months following it that I kind of started to believe my own hype. And I thought, “Well, I’m just going to knock the guy out.” And I didn’t really give him the respect he deserved. And that was just ego. That was my own ego, you know, showing itself and taking over and being an ass basically. I just went in there with no real focus or control and I think I threw like three or four left hooks in a row and then he caught me clean with one counter that finished the fight. It was difficult thinking about it months after, because I never thought I was going to end up knocked out. You know, I thought I might get beaten, but I just didn’t see me getting beaten to the point to where I was unconscious. So that was a good reality check for me. Getting up off the canvas I had a different head; I was a different person.

MF: If you are to ever fight again, is there someone in particular that you’d like to have a rematch with?

Dan: Well, Carlos Condit… I’ll be honest, I would like to fight him with the respect that he deserves now, which sounds strange.

MF: Right. Yeah, it really shows just how much fighting success, or really athletics in general is mental.

Dan: Yeah, yeah. Without a doubt. It’s kind of easy to put the mental stuff to the side and just really focus on the actual sport itself. But with fighting there are so many unknown factors, there are so many things can happen on the night that it’s very, very difficult to not be in your head and constantly talking doubts into your subconscious. And you know, I can sit and watch UFC now and I can see it happening on fighters’ faces. Because I’ve been in there so many times I recognize it in their eyes now and can see when they’ve got doubts, I can see it in the stare downs, and during the fight there might be one particular strike that lands that immediately changes their thought process and then there’s a doubt and a hesitation.

You know, one of the biggest challenges that a fighter will face… you know, you can get a guy that’s technically the best you’ve ever met, I mean I’ve trained with some guys in the gym that are monsters, just absolute monsters. But then you put them in an octagon – in a cage – and they freak out and freeze up, because that’s the moment they have to perform. When they’re in the gym, they can just do what they like, when they like. Now they pressure’s on and they start pulling themselves apart with doubt and it really undoes their whole game.

MF: Obviously, you’re a very cerebral person and very, very into what you’re doing. ] Is there any chance that you will coach MMA fighters? Is that something you would like to do? Or are you actually doing that now?

Dan: You know, I’ve been working with a couple of different people. Every now and then, I have a friend that reaches out to me and asks me to help them out. And I help my guy out for his last training camp a lot. It was unfortunate the fight didn’t go his way, but his training camp was awesome and I know he got a lot out of it; it wasn’t a total loss. But there are guys in and around Vegas that occasionally want me to come in and help them out. And yeah, I have a couple people I’m going to be training that I’m sure you’ll be hearing about when the time comes.

But, yeah, I’d still very much like to be within the mixed martial art community and helping fighters out. Right now, I don’t have the time. Like Duane (Ludwig) is doing with the Alpha Male guys (TeamAlphaMale.com), and he’s doing a great job. I would love to do that, but I have so many other things going on that I wouldn’t be able to commit to it fully and it wouldn’t be fair on the guys that I’m working with. For sure in the future. And certainly in the seminars and stuff. Any time I have the opportunity to teach a seminar — or even just sit and talk to someone who fights and just sit around and give them some ideas of what I’ve learned on my journey — I love to do that. I love passing along that kind of information.

MF: Yeah. Because honestly, it’s one thing – having been involved in athletics as a trainer/coach for years – it’s one thing to be able to teach people technique and how to build your endurance and strength. But it’s another thing to approach athletics from the angle that you seem to have mastered, and that’s more from the mental part of it, the attitude part of it. That’s a very difficult thing to get across to people. And I think that would be something you’d really enjoy doing for other athletes.

Dan: I would. You know, particularly younger athletes. Particularly guys that are starting out in their MMA career and they really don’t know what to expect. Because I remember being there, I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m a good martial artist, I can fight. You know, I’ve trained hard and I’m prepared to put the time in, but now what? What comes next?”

It’s such a wide open career to step into; you can really go anywhere with it. And it’s very difficult to make the right decisions and to be in the right head space stepping into a fight – and that’s one thing, you know, above everything, I was never particularly a great athlete and I was never particularly strong or particularly, you know, skilled or well-rounded. I’ve always been predominantly a striker. So the thing that got me through a lot of my fights was just the belief that I was going to win and the toughness that I got from pushing myself in training.

MF: Right. The mental edge.

Dan: Exactly. You know, the experience and lessons that I got from that… if I could pass them onto someone that is actually a good fighter, then they’ll fly. So, you know, I got to the UFC with my skill set, so if I can pass this information on to someone who’s really skillful then, wow, it could be scary.

MF: Well, Dan, is there anything you’d like to mention to your fans that’s going on now?

Dan: Yeah, I’ll be around for appearances and signings with Xyience. And yeah, I really look forward to shaking hands and talking with fans, kissing babies, you know. If anyone has any questions, comments or wants to see what I’ve got going on, they can contact me on Twitter or Facebook. And then there’s WolfCam on YouTube.

MF: Yeah, well, Dan I’ve got to tell you, you were extremely impressive in the ring, giving fans some of the most exiting fights I believe in theMMA history. But I’m sure people will agree with me, that I’m even more impressed at how you handle yourself outside the ring. You’re someone who continues to try and grow as a person mentally as well as physically. I’ve got to tell you, that’s extremely admirable, and I want to thank you very much again for this interview.

Dan: No worries, I appreciate it and it’s been good talking to you.

MF: Good talking to you. Good luck, and I hope to be seeing you around in the future.

Dan: Thanks, my friend, speak to you soon.