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Upset Special: UFC 111 interview exclusive with Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy


No one needs to tell welterweight challenger Dan Hardy he's the underdog. He seems to relish the role.

"I'm good at upsetting people, I guess," he recently told me.

And although he was clearly talking about his knack for getting under his opponents' skin, the same goes for his ability to pull an upset. This was supposed to be Mike Swick's moment to shine, after all.

But as the +450 to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre's -700, even these are long odds for Dan Hardy. The Team Rough Hough product will nonetheless look to do the impossible - what no one other than Matt Hughes and Matt Serra have ever been able to do (and both of those losses were later avenged).

Hardy (23-6 with 1 NC) will look to take the welterweight world title from St. Pierre (19-2). It goes down this Saturday night, March 27 at the Prudential Center as the headliner for UFC 111: "St. Pierre vs. Hardy."

We recently caught up with Hardy to ask him about the role that music plays when he's preparing for a fight, how his Matt Serra training sessions came about, and why everybody loves an underdog story.

He also has some strong words for Josh Koscheck regarding his upcoming UFC 113 fight against Paul "Semtex" Daley.

Let's kick it.

Adam Wagner ( Are you from Nottingham?

Dan Hardy: I am.

Adam Wagner ( I read that your nickname comes from the fact that Robin Hood was from Nottingham, is that true?

Dan Hardy: Well yeah, it was just ... well, originally it wasn't. Originally it was due to a disagreement within an old team I used to train with. I went to train somewhere else, and I was kind of outlawed by that team, and none of the people were allowed to train with me. It's a long story, so ...

But the main thing is that, yeah, I'm from Nottingham, and that's kinda why I've kept the name.

Adam Wagner ( We talked last time - I guess it was before the Marcus Davis fight, I think - and we talked about some of your other influences like art and tattooing. I was wondering how big of a role music plays with you when you're training or working out or whatever. Do you listen to music?

Dan Hardy: I do, yes. Music's always been important leading up to fights and things like that. I've quite a wide variety of taste in music.

I have different types of music for different times and different moods I'm in. So if I'm on my way to train, I'll listen to hardcore, like Madball, or Earth Crisis or, you know, bands like Pantera or stuff that's going to get me hyped up.

And then after a training session, I'll listen to something more chilled out like anything from old-school ska like the Specials and Selecter, all the way over to like Cypress Hill and stuff like that.

And when I'm doing visualization training, I'll have a particular album that I'm listening to, and I'll use that album all the way through my camp. So then by the time it comes to fight week, I can put that album on and I can do everything automatically, I don't have to think about it.

Adam Wagner ( Right on. Usually you fight abroad, and when we talked last time, you had said that you set up your training in such a way that you start in the States and return to England to Team Rough House. This is your first UFC fight in the U.S. and third ever. How does this affect your camp?

Dan Hardy: It didn't really change it too much, to be honest. What I did, I went from ... as soon as I finished the Swick fight, I went straight back to Los Angeles to start training again. I did four weeks in Los Angeles from the middle of November to the middle of December.

Then I flew back to the U.K. I did two weeks leading up to Christmas and then over Christmas, where I was just doing one session a day, just kind of ticking over. And then I did a full 10 or 11-week training camp from New Years up to two weeks ago, and then I flew out to do the last three weeks here.

So it's not really changing anything. I still did the full camp in the U.K. like I normally do, and then I had an additional four weeks on the end, and three of the four weeks I spent over here.

Adam Wagner ( Tell me about training with Matt Serra. How did it come about, whose idea was it?

Dan Hardy: Well it's something I've been considering when I first thought of the fight camp. Because obviously, Matt Serra's got a lot of information about GSP, with him fighting him twice.

I knew he'd be a good person to talk to. And fortunately, we're both sponsored by Xyience, so there was a common ground there, so I was able to get in touch with him and head over.

My intention was just to spend a day with him, just to spend a training session with him. Just to pick up a bit of few things and take them back and work on them with my team. But after chatting with Matt and meeting him, we got on well, and it became apparent that he was quite prepared to give me more of his time.

So I've started training with him four or five times a week now. He's been bringing his guys in, all his top guys, and he's just been putting together solid training sessions for me. Doing everything I need for the fight, basically.

I just feel so prepared now, after working with him, it's just made a huge difference in my confidence as well as in my preparation.

Adam Wagner ( What types of things did you focus most heavily on, generally speaking? Thinking back on how Serra's fight with St. Pierre went - his second fight, of course - he was generally on his back for much of the fight. Have you been working on escaping back to your feet or takedown defense?

Dan Hardy: Yeah, everything we've done has been going from bad positions. Every position you can think of, from guard to half-guard, to side mount, to mount, to back defense. We've covered everything. We've worked every position, every bad position under pressure, as well.

We're doing rounds. We're doing five minute rounds with fresh guys every minute or two minutes in each round. Each round we do a different position, so say we do half guard for a round, then half guard from the other side, and we just go through the rounds like that.

Obviously between the rounds and during the rounds, he's coaching me and showing me tricks and techniques that I can use in those positions. And like you said, in his last fight with GSP, he spent a lot of time on his back, so he's very familiar with GSP's approach to the ground control.

So basically, he's educating me on all the stuff that he thinks I'm going to need against GSP if it hits the ground, which is fantastic. We've covered so much ground in the past two weeks, we've done some awesome training sessions.

I trained with him [last week], and both sessions were just perfect sessions. It's been awesome. I just feel so prepared. I think GSP's expecting that as soon as it hits the ground for him to be safe, and that's really not the case anymore.

Adam Wagner ( I'd like to talk about your underdog status, but if a different way. Your episode of "UFC Primetime" grabbed a record high 1 million viewers, its highest ever. By comparison, the GSP-Penn episode landed some 880,000 viewers. If you're such an underdog, why are so many people interested in this fight?

Dan Hardy: I think it's a combination of a couple of things to be honest.

One, everybody loves an underdog story. I think this is a typical "Rocky" movie, this. GSP's the guy with all the fancy techniques and all the technology and the top-level training that he needs.

And then there's me who's got the less-than-elite team around me. I've got a bunch of guys that might not be well-known to the rest of the world.

It's just a typical underdog story, and I think everybody likes those kind of stories.

And I think also that people can see a lot of potential in me in this fight. I think people know that, although in the books it's one fight, it's going to be very different on the night. It's not going to be a one-sided fight at all. I think people know that.

So I think they just want to get involved, they want to see what I'm doing and see how I'm preparing just so they can involve themselves in the story a little more.

And I think the second reason is because I don't mind speaking my mind (laughs), you know? I mean, GSP, he says the same things in every build-up to every fight: he's in the best shape he's ever been in, he's prepared hard, etc.

But I don't mind telling it how it is. I think people are interested in that and interested in what I'm saying. I think that's why people are tuning in. Even if they don't like me, they wanna know what I'm going to say, because I'm good at upsetting people, I guess.

Adam Wagner ( For whatever reason, the UFC airbrushed your abdominal tattoos and changed your hair color. Which pissed you off more?

Dan Hardy: Well the photograph was, let me try and think when it was ... it was from just before the Marcus Davis fight, and if you see it at the weigh-in, my hair was the same as that. I had not had it colored or cut yet, so it was slightly longer on the sides, which made it darker and I didn't have the red in it.

The airbrushing out of the tattoo was apparently because there was too much visual stimulus on the poster. If they would've left my tattoo in, the tattoo would have drawn people's eyes away from the information about the show. So that was the story about the tattoo.

Adam Wagner ( Do you buy that excuse (laughs)?

Dan Hardy: I don't know. I don't really mind too much. They didn't airbrush my face too much, so people can at least tell it's me (laughs).

Adam Wagner ( Early on, GSP was known more for his standup skills, in addition to his submissions. We haven't really seen the standup part of his game in a while. He's relied more heavily on his wrestling and ground and pound. Do you anticipate he'll have the same game plan against you? Do you think he'll be keen to stand with you?

Dan Hardy: I don't know, I don't. I think he might stand and move around and pretend he's going to trade kicks and punches with me, but that would only be there to set up for a takedown. I don't think he's got any intention of standing and risking the chance of getting hit.

Like you said, in his earlier fights, he looked very dynamic. He took risks, he looked so much better, in my opinion, because he didn't mind showing the rare skills and trying things out.

Whereas now, I'm not sure whether it's because he doesn't want to lose his belt or because ... I think the fight with Matt Serra scared the hell out of him. I also think that the first round of the first BJ Penn fight scared the hell out of him.

And I don't think he likes the chance, I don't think he likes the gamble anymore. I think he likes to make sure he's in a safe situation where he's not in as much danger. And obviously, that is being on top of somebody on the ground.

Adam Wagner ( In all fairness, he hasn't really shown to be in any danger in most of his fights. Obviously, excluding the first Matt Serra fight. Since then, he hasn't really been in a whole lot of danger, which I think plays into part of his mystique.

To me, that must be a factor when preparing for a guy like him, because when you're dissecting his weaknesses, there may not be any apparent on the tape. Does that play a factor for you?

Dan Hardy: At this level, every time you take a step up in level the guys that you fight have less and less weaknesses. It's so much more difficult to pick an opponent apart when you're getting into the top 10 and the top 5, and obviously now I'm at the very top.

The higher up the rankings you get, the more difficult it is to dissect an opponent and pick out weaknesses. That doesn't mean to say that GSP doesn't have any. I think he's got quite a lot. I just think he's a) very good at hiding them; and b) very good at staying away from them.

I think there are a lot of weaknesses in GSP's game, only now he doesn't take risks any more, and he's not willing to stand and trade and maybe take a few shots.

I don't think we see his weaknesses as much. But the more I watch GSP, the more weaknesses I can see and the more opportunity I see in the fight.

I don't think his standup is very good at all, I really don't. I mean his mechanics are awful, and he's very, very limited in his arsenal in his standup.

I think the reason he's effective in his standup is because of how good a wrestler he is. And that's something to be very aware of. Because as long as I'm aware of his takedowns, I can let my hands go and I can land the shots I need to. And I'm confident I can do that.

Adam Wagner ( I don't want to let you go without asking you about one of your teammates. Paul Daley faces a pretty tough fight in Josh Koscheck next. This is actually one of my favorite matchups for the next few months - this one I'm really excited about. How do you think this fight goes?

Dan Hardy: I think it's going to be a very messy and very quick night for Koscheck, if I'm honest.

Koscheck seems to have forgotten that he's a wrestler. He seems to think now he can kickbox. It's a fighter like Paul Daley that's gonna show him that he's not a kickboxer.

You can't get in there with Paul Daley and expect to stand and trade kicks and punches if you've not got that level of striking that Paul's got. Paul only needs to hit him once and Koscheck will be ... he'll be all over the place.

And you know, we've seen Koscheck get knocked out two or three times before, so we know he can be hurt, and I don't think he's ever fought anybody who can hit like Paul.

I think it's going to be a very short night. And even if he does remember that he is a wrestler and tries to take Paul down, he's certainly not in for an easy ride because Paul's very athletic and very explosive, and he's naturally a very good wrestler anyway. I just don't see Koscheck getting the luck in.

Adam Wagner ( A win for Daley makes it 3 Octagon wins in a row (KO'd Kampmann then Hazelett). You two could be fighting for the same title here one day if you're not careful. Is that a fight that you'd take?

Dan Hardy: No it's not, no. Myself and Paul have discussed this in the past. We get asked this question a lot. I mean everybody wants to watch teammates fight. Anderson Silva/Lyoto Machida would be a great fight, and there are three guys at AKA who have never fought each other. So I don't see why myself and Paul would ever end up having to fight each other.

After this fight, even once I win the belt, I don't see Paul as being the next contender anyway, because there's the Fitch/Alves fight as well. So, I don't see that becoming a problem. And if it ever does get to that stage, myself and Paul will sit down and discuss it and we'll decide the best way forward.

I personally see us both holding the belt at some point, obviously one of us would hold it first, then vacate it, and the other one would take it. I'm not planning on being the champion forever. I'm happy to take the belt and defend it a few times and step aside for Paul to do his business.

Adam Wagner ( Well, Dan, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I wanted to give you a chance to plug any sponsors of if you have any parting words for your fans.

Dan Hardy: Just to the fans, thanks for the support. I'm getting a lot of great emails at the moment, people showing their support. And there's a lot of people traveling from all over the world to come and watch this fight, which is awesome.

My sponsors are great, TapouT and Xyience are doing really well for me. And all my smaller sponsors, Earache Records and all those guys are great. is my website, so if you need any information, it's all on there.

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