The UFC conducted its UFC 99 conference call this afternoon. Featured on the call were headliners Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva, along with featured fighters Marcus Davis and Dan Hardy.
And if the fireworks on the call are a precursor of what’s to come in the cage, it should a heck of a fight between "The Irish Hand Grenade" and "The Outlaw." In fact, the long-running war-of-words between the two fighters overshadowed the main event.
Things started pleasantly enough when Davis fielded a question about why he thinks several fighters — such as Chris Lytle and now Hardy — have expressed interest in fighting him. Davis said that he thinks people look at him as a gatekeeper to the Top 10. In his own words: "At least that’s the feedback I get from other people. If you make it past me, you’re up there in the Top 10. I’m kind of like that line you gotta cross."
Things really heated up when Hardy was asked if he thinks he went too far in hyping the fight by making fun of Davis for his emotional display at UFC 93. The fight card took place on Ireland, a country Davis derives heritage from.
Hardy admitted that it was a valid question, but said that he was first approached by fans who wanted to see him fight Davis. Hardy then intentionally poked fun at Davis as an effort to bait him into asking the UFC for the fight. Otherwise, he said, the fight never would have happened.
"Originally the fight was put to me by the fans — the fans were the ones who wanted to see the fight. So I thought it was my responsibility to try to get this fight on. Realistically, it’s not a good fight for his career. To be fair, he’s way ahead of me. He should be really looking toward a title shot — looking toward getting a couple more wins toward that. To fight a guy who’s just went to the UFC and had two fights, I really didn’t think he’d end up taking the fight, so I did a few things to try and make sure that that paper was signed."
Hardy continued: "I don’t care if he walks out in a kilt or whatever. But I knew that poking a bit of fun at him would get a reaction out of him, which is exactly what happened. And then from there it started to get kind of silly. He came on to a couple of different radio stations and TV shows in the U.K. and he was doing all the trash talking. Some of the stuff he was saying — calling me a coward and things like that. How somebody’s a coward when they’ve already signed to fight you, I don’t know how that works, but … So I don’t really know where you draw the line."
From there, things got a little more out of hand. And if you’ve witnessed any of the Photoshop controversy, you already know what we’re talking about. If not, Google "Marcus Davis Photoshop," and you’ll get the idea. In a nutshell: Davis accused Hardy of encouraging fans to post Photoshopped pictures of Davis, the majority of which were … how do you put it? Gay-friendly? Hardy denied the connection.
Hardy: "I started with trying to get the fight on for myself and for the fans, and Marcus got really upset about it. What more can I say? The Photoshop thing was nothing to do with me, apart from the fact that I just posted the Photograph up there, and the fans did what they wanted with it. I just think any other person would have laughed it off, but Marcus seems to be a bit too sensitive."
Asked if he felt Hardy crossed the line, Davis was quick to respond, "Oh, he definitely crossed the line." Davis claimed that he only called Hardy a "coward" after Hardy had instigated the Photoshop attack by encouraging U.K. fans to post pictures of Davis online. But Davis added, "I’ve always said that I respect Dan Hardy’s fighting ability, that I’ve always said I’m not going to belittle his ability to fight, because he can fight. But I’m not going to respect him as a person, because he’s not giving me any respect as a person."
Hardy followed up by saying he too respected Davis as a fighter, but that would not matter when they fought because Davis would not beat him. Hardy also denied being the instigator, saying that the Photoshop drama was started by the fans.
"Saying that I wanted to get the Photoshop pictures posted everywhere is nonsense. That was emailed to me by a fan, and they said, ‘Have you seen this photograph, it’s pretty funny.’ And all I did was post it and put ‘Photoshop, anybody?’ with a question mark … "
And that’s when it snowballed out of control:
Hardy: "I didn’t ask for anybody to post it anywhere. That was just the fans having fun. And if a 35 year old man can’t laugh that off — "
Davis interrupted: "That’s not true, you’re a liar."
Hardy: "No, I’m not a liar."
Davis: "I saw the form when you put it on there."
Hardy: "No, I did — "
Davis: "You’re a liar, ‘cause I saw the form, and then I saw after the pictures went on, I saw you go on there. I saw what you wrote. You wrote, ‘Hey guys, go put them on Sherdog and MMA.tv.’ That was your friggin’ picture by it, and you’re the one that put it on there."
Hardy: "That’s a lie."
Davis: "So don’t say that you’re not the one that asked them to go do that, ‘cause you did ask them to go do that."
Hardy: "No, I didn’t. No, I genuinely did not."
Davis: "Well then somebody’s using your picture and using your name, Dan Hardy, on that U.K. forum that other U.K. fans emailed me — that’s how I found the forum, they emailed me and said, ‘You have to go to this forum and see what he’s doing.’"
Hardy admitted that it was entirely possible that someone else had posted in his name, attempting to get a Photoshop contest started, but was adamant in saying that it was not him. So Hardy asked Davis a question of his own:
"Now why would I (insult you behind your back)? Do you think I’m scared of you or something? Is that what you think, really?"
Davis: "No, I don’t … You wouldn’t be a fighter if you were afraid of anybody that you were fighting. That’s just not in our genetic makeup. I don’t care if you fear me or you don’t fear me."
Hardy: "So what’s the thing on your blog about saying that I won’t say anything to your face, etc. I’ll look you in the eyes on June 12 at the weigh-in, and I’ll tell you I’m not afraid of you. And on June 13, I’ll show you I’m not afraid of you."
Davis: "Yeah, we’ll see, buddy."
Phew, for a minute there I thought we were back in the high school cafeteria.
Regardless of the tiff, one thing both fighters could agree on is that neither anticipates this little pre-fight skirmish will have any bearing on their mental states, come fight time. Hardy admitted that Davis is a "tough guy" who comes ready to fight. Davis agreed: "I won’t take it into the ring that night and act like a wild man, and I know he won’t either. So we’ll just go out there and perform the best that we can perform, and that’ll be it."
The original war of words between these two began soon after Hardy’s first round knockout victory over Rory Markham during the UFC 95 event in London, England.
During a post-fight press conference for the event, Hardy called into question Davis’ penchant for playing up his Irish roots.
"He’s had a couple of fights in the U.K., and he’s kind of building himself a fan base, but he’s not English; he’s not Irish," said Hardy. "I was born here, and I’ve been bred here. I don’t mind taking on that challenge and showing him this is my home and not his."
Davis responded to the comments and stated that he’s tired of his tribute to his Irish heritage being constantly called into question.
"I’m getting sick and tired of everyone saying I’m a fake Irishman or a fake this and fake that. I never told anybody I was an Irishman. What I am is proud of my heritage, which is Irish, Welsh and Scottish."
At this point, every fan should be ready for the UFC’s first trip into continental Europe. UFC 99 will emanate from the Lanxess Arena June 13 and will feature former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva taking on former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin.
MMAmania.com Features Writer Adam Wagner contributed to this report.