Octagonside by Anthony Springer Jr.
“I’ve never been this popular before.”
Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy was all smiles backstage after UFC 146. Nearly every major media in attendance was lined up to speak with him. And Hardy greeted each interview as though it was the first.
After all, this was a feeling he hadn’t had in a few years. November 2009 to be exact, when he defeated Mike Swick at UFC 105 in Manchester, England. What followed was a four fight skid that was abruptly halted by last night’s undercard victory over veteran slugger Duane “Bang” Ludwig.
“I’m feeling relieved,” a happy Hardy told Fight News. “I put a lot of months into this training camp. It just had to pay off. I put so much effort. It had to work.”
What arguably would’ve been a certain departure from the UFC with a loss prompted Hardy to reexamine his training. After being submitted by Chris Lytle last August, Hardy seemed to drop from the face of the earth. He was given a reprieve from UFC brass and learned via Twitter that he’d fight another day.
According to UFC President Dana White, cutting Hardy after the Lytle defeat wasn’t an option.
“We like guys who fight. He’s a fun fighter and we like him,” White said following UFC 146.
Hardy made the most of his time off.
“It was a year away from competing,” Hardy said. “The pressure was off because I didn’t have a fight and everyone was leaving me alone in the gym because I was coming off four losses. I’ve learned a hell of a lot of new stuff that people didn’t get to see tonight. That’ll come in the future.”
Hardy didn’t shy away from dropping hints. He’s putting in time with jiu-jitsu master Ricky Lundell and improving his grappling skills.
“I want to be able to put people where I want them and hit them.”
When the Octagon door closed, it was vintage Hardy. The snap on the left hook was the same snap that put so many competitors down before. As his fists connected with Ludwig’s face, Hardy knew he was on his way back to the win column.
“With a knockout punch, you feel it when it lands. I’ve landed a lot of left hooks. When that one landed I knew it was the money shot. I saw him hit the deck and I saw him look at me. I knew I was going to have to hit him again. I’m a huge fan of Ludwig and I didn’t want to do any damage to him. I’m looking forward to his next fight and I don’t want him to be out too long.”
Hardy also ranks this particular punch among the most satisfying of his career—and with good reason.
“The other left hook I enjoyed the most was the Rory Markham one because that was a co-main event in London. To be honest, I was on a bit of a roll so I don’t think I appreciated it as much as this one. It was a rough couple years and this left hook was the fruits of the labor.”
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