Bellator 194: “Mitrione vs. Nelson 2” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., this Friday night (Feb. 16, 2018), featuring a main event rematch between former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veterans as Matt Mitrione (12-5) squares off with ”Big Country” Roy Nelson (23-14).
Before that important bracket of the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament can be decided, two female Flyweights with boxing backgrounds will get their chance to shine as Heather “The Heat” Hardy (1-1) faces Ana Julaton (2-3). Julaton made her way over from ONE Fighting with a .500 record in mixed martial arts (MMA) and a string of boxing titles behind her from organizations like IBA and WBO. The judges did not side with her in her Bellator debut, though, awarding “Insane” Lisa Blaine a split decision.
Hardy has had her struggles as well. After an impressive Bellator NYC performance at Madison Square Garden, she faltered against the previously unknown Kristina Williams at Bellator 185. The fight left an impression on the fans and some work for the plastic surgeons who would have to put Hardy’s nose back together.
Hardy recently spoke with MMAmania.com about her road to facing Julaton, one which started last June when she made a successful pro MMA debut against Alice Yauger.
“Oh man! When I looked out that little curtain and saw the cage, I said, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ I’ll tell you what, getting down on my knees and being the winner at the very end of that fight, I told my daughter when I got home, ‘I finally found something better than giving birth to you.”
Even though Hardy was looking to find that feeling again in her last trip to Uncasville, things did not work out nearly as well as she could have hoped.
“Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t surprised, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be the walkover everyone thought. Like when I was doing the press leading up to that fight and everyone was saying, ‘Well, she’s making her debut’ I’m like, ‘Whoa whoa whoa whoa hold up ... whoa! She’s making her debut, but she’s been doing this for a long time and that is a young kid who’s hungry and on her way up.’ By no means was I overlooking this kid. I knew it was gonna be a hard fight (but) I certainly didn’t expect my face to be broken.”
After a little bit of rest, recuperation and reconstruction Hardy was right back to training for fights.
“Yeah, I’m Irish man. We heal up quick! I was back in the gym in five weeks sparring.”
With almost four months off since her last Bellator fight Hardy’s eager to make a return against Julaton, another boxer-turned fighter who had a rough night at Bellator 185. It’s also where their feud started.
“There was hype about us (fighting) before the fight. Like I was walking to my weigh in the night before, like going to do my fighter interviews, so I had just made weight and I’m so cranky. One of the reporters was like, ‘Oh, did you see this article I just put out?’ In it Ana was like, ‘Heather Hardy you can run but you can’t hide.’ I was such a bitch because I was so hungry and thirsty and like tired. So I was like, ‘I want to fight her next now! GRRR!’ Then it kind of just happened like that.”
The grudge is so real that Hardy and Julaton have agreed to fight TWICE — first at Bellator 194 and then again later in a boxing match. Hardy talked about how the deal got put together.
“I think because we’re both juggling two contracts, right? Like we both have boxing contracts, I’m with DiBella and Allan Tremblay, and we’re both with Bellator so it kinda just made sense like — well if we’re gonna fight isn’t that a nice little hook that we do one in the cage and one in the ring?”
That hook led her right back to Uncasville for her third MMA fight. And now Hardy hopes that her left hook will land Julaton on the canvas in both formats.
“I have all the tools I need right now to dominate her in both. I learned from my last fight, like number one don’t be overconfident (laughing). One thing I can tell you, I’m not the most technical fighter, right? I’m not the prettiest fighter, I don’t have the best skills, but I am the toughest bitch out there — I promise you that — so it’s gonna be a great fight.”
Hardy can argue that she’s not the most technical fighter if she likes, but that’s downplaying her 20-0 (with one no contest) boxing record before trying MMA, which exceeds Julaton’s 14-4-1 record.
“Yeah, I mean you know and as a world champion, too, so you gotta give credit where credit is due. I may not like (Julaton) as a person, but she’s a good boxer.”
That doesn’t mean Hardy isn’t brimming with confidence in both sports. Sometimes she comes across as humble and at other times she comes off like a vicious predator stalking her prey.
“I don’t think she can ever beat me in boxing. Not on her best day and my worst.”
At Bellator 194, though, it’s all about MMA, and she’s so focused on that date that Hardy has no idea when the second fight will be.
“It’s hard to schedule a fight after an MMA fight, right? After my last one imagine if I had a boxing match set up with a big broken nose like that, my opponent would be KILLING me. They can’t really schedule a date until we see what happens on February 16th.”
You know the date and you know the venue. Now all you need to do is tune in to the Paramount Network and watch Hardy bring “The Heat” to Ana Julaton.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Nelson 2” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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