Friday, February 08, 2013

I am extremely proud to bring to the UG the first in a series of exclusive interviews.  I hope to eventually do hundreds of these interviews, but I will always be grateful to UFC welterweight veteran, Dan Hardy, for being the first to accept my invitation. 

After my most recent blog about my trip to Vegas for UFC 156, I was inspired about the possibility of reaching out to MMA fighters and personalities via Twitter just like I did with Joey.  Since I began my UG blog eight months ago, I’ve managed to acquire a modest number of followers on Twitter, including several big names in MMA.  So I direct messaged several of them with a simple question:  “I’m doing a series of 10-question Twitter interviews to be posted on the UG. Would you be interested?”  I also linked my Vegas blog in the message for proof that I was legit. 

Dan was the first to respond and he said “Yes, mate, that was a good piece!”  

So I was psyched, but I made it clear to Dan that I’m not a journalist, just a full-time MMA fan and a part-time martial artist.  I also let him know that I wanted to exchange messages with one question at a time so that it would be conversational.  I wanted it to be just like we were meeting for a cup of coffee.  It was the best cup of imaginary coffee I ever had.  Dan is not just an exciting fighter.  The conversation below proves that Dan is a true intellectual, intelligent and introspective, and beyond eloquent.   Enjoy. 

Jack Brown: Back in your TKD days, what were your go-to and/or favorite techniques, and what techniques, if any, have you incorporated into your MMA?

Dan Hardy: I used the hop side kick/hop front kick a lot, which made several appearances in my first UFC fight against Gono.  My finishers were always left head kick or spinning back kick though.  I need to start using them again a little more actually!  I did a lot of damage with those two techniques.

JB: You’re obviously a creative person.  What forms of creative expression did you enjoy growing up, which do you enjoy now (besides MMA), and what would you like to do creatively in the future?

DH: This might sound odd but as a kid I loved nothing more than Legos.  I still have loads now, including most of the Star Wars stuff!  I usually buy a big set for fight week… It’s kind of like an escape, a relaxed meditation.  I used to draw a lot as a kid but as I’ve grown up I’ve started writing a lot more.  I plan on this being my focus once I’m done fighting.  There is also a possibility of a return to the music industry too… But I won’t say any more on that just yet!

JB: I’ve often seen you tweet about Legos.  I think like Apple products, there is something iconic in their design that appeals to our collective unconscious.  What early Lego sets do you remember having and what are the current sets that fascinate you most?

DH: Pirate Lego was always my favorite, with castles being a close second.  My first Lego pirate ship was, and still is my most favorite set.  The new Pirates of the Caribbean ships are very cool.  I have the Black Pearl, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and the Imperial Flag Ship on my shelf in the UK.  Here in Vegas though, it’s all Star Wars pretty much.  Frank Mir got me the Millennium Falcon during the UFC 146 training camp, and that’s what started it off.  I was resisting buying any because one set would open the flood gates.  Now I have most of it!

JB: I’m assuming that training is why you moved to Vegas from the UK.  What training partners and coaches solidified that decision for you?

DH: I’d been out to Vegas a few times to train, but it never really clicked.  Even when I moved initially it wasn’t right.  Then I started helping Frank out for the Nogueira fight, and I saw how well organized his camp was and how good his coaches were.  That’s what made me stay here.  It had gotten to a stage in my career where it was my last chance to make some changes, so I changed everything.  Fortunately it turned out to be the right decision.

JB: What do you think it is about your coach, Ricky Lundell, that has made him so successful at such a young age?

DH: Easy – Hard work and dedication.  He is very analytical and with him having a black belt for a while now, and being an awesome wrestler, he can draw on what is needed to get the job done.

JB: UFC 111 was actually the first live event that I ever attended.  I’m sure there were both positives and negatives for you that night in New Jersey.  What are the positives that came from that championship fight for you?

DH: Good question.  The truth is, even the negatives have turned into positives now.  My ego swelled a little after that fight because everyone I met in the following month said nothing but nice things about my performance – Which, as we both know was basically surviving five rounds.  It went to my head a little and going into the Condit fight, I felt invincible.  That night when I hit the canvas, I got up a different person. 

Now I know that I lost the following two as well, but it was a very introspective period.  I grew up a lot, refocused myself, worked through some personal stuff, and came out the other side better.  I think I gave a good account of myself on the night, to what my ability allowed – Which amounted to stubbornness and an unwillingness to admit defeat essentially.  I think going through that phase in a fairly public situation, the breaking down and rebuilding, almost expedited it.  It was much less an internal process when it’s being documented by the media and discussed on the forums.  And I forced myself to read it, all of it.  I wanted to see myself from a public perspective, from its most critical stance – The Keyboard Warrior!  I’d heard all of the good stuff, now it was time to read the bad.  I figured it was the best way through it – Attack it head on.  From that I found a new sense of self and a clearer direction.  I also don’t take it all as seriously now.  It’s just a circus at the end of the day.  It doesn’t amount to anything in the long run, so use it as a tool to find the core of your person. 

JB: After the fight with GSP, you also began training with the champ.  How does that affect the potential for you to be fighting his training partners like Rory MacDonald and Nate Marquardt?  You and Nate had quite a tete-a-tete back in the day, I recall.

DH: I don’t really ever think about it to be honest, mate.  My time in this sport is limited.  So I’m using the rest of my career to have fun fights and to test myself each day.  There are lots of potential fights out there, but they are also the best training partners.  I would rather better myself by working with these guys.  If a situation ever arises where a training partner becomes a potential opponent, I’ll decide the best way forward then.  No point turning down a learning experience for a fight that will probably never happen!

JB: I’ve seen you enjoying a lot of the UFC events as a spectator.  What have been some of your favorite fights to view in person?  And what did you think when you were cage-side at UFC 113 and watched your training partner, Paul Daley, vs. Josh Koscheck?

DH: That was frustrating to watch because we all know how much of a tool Koscheck is… I understand why Paul got so angry – It was just a split second of bad judgment.  It’s a shame because Paul has so much potential.  It’s difficult to pick favorite fights I’ve seen live… There have been so many.  Guida vs. Sanchez was pretty wild.  I also enjoyed Aldo vs. Hominick and Leben vs. Akiyama.  They are just the ones that come to mind.  I’m sure I’m forgetting loads of others.

JB: I really enjoyed the podcasts that you did with Mac Danzig, and I thought that the one that you did with Danzig and Forrest Griffin was especially entertaining.  Can we expect more of those and/or for you to be doing other podcasts in the future?

DH: Yeah, Mac and I have been discussing doing more.  We have some great conversation when it’s just the two of us, and then about two hours in we say to each other, “we should have been recording this!”  The world isn’t quite ready for some of the topics though, just yet – And certainly not the MMA community.  There is still very much a culture of closed-mindedness in professional sports.

JB: Last question, Dan, and it has been a fantastic conversation that I’ve greatly appreciated.  You’ve already travelled many roads, and I sense that you may literally and figuratively be a traveler for all your life.  What are the places in this world that you still want to visit most?

DH: Wow… Where do I start with that one!  I’m actually planning a few trips for the future at the moment.  You are right though – Traveler for life, mate, no doubt.  My next trip will probably be around the central states of the U.S.  Get out into the wilderness and learn to live with the land for a while.  I have plans to join a crew on a small boat down to South America and trek back from the southernmost point too.  Then there is Africa which I have never visited.  I have a trip around Asia to do also.  This is one of the reasons why MMA isn’t a lifetime career for me.  I have too much to do before I die to dedicate several more years to fighting.  After all, winning an MMA fight really doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.  I know that’s not what the fans want to hear, but it’s the truth.  Everything in that world is temporary and superficial.  The only way you can get to the bare bones of your existence is to understand the martial arts journey.  When money and contracts and sponsorships and trash talking come into it, it’s easy to lose focus – Something I am definitely guilty of in the past.  No matter how many fights I win and how much money I make, it only improves me in the “capitalist” sense.  I get better at climbing over others to benefit myself, and that is what I’m trying to get away from.  Anything that becomes professional is always tainted with greed.  At this point I want to put a few good performances together and step away before it ruins me forever.  I’m going to embrace the part of my nature that drives me to compete, to see what else can be gleaned from the process.  After that I will step away and begin my next journey.  And I think that the best way to do that is to put myself in places of trial and isolation, in different parts of the world, to see if I can evolve a little more – Figure out what my perceived limitations are and find a way through to the other side.

Thanks so much for reading and please follow @danhardymma and @jackjohnbrown and on Twitter.

And special thanks to @KirikJenness for @theUG.

Keep checking the UG for the next Jack Brown Interview, with WMMA fighter, Rose Namajunas.