Dan Hardy is seeing double every time he watches a UFC fight.
Hardy, once known for his neon red mohawk, says UFC’s business structure has systematically destroyed creativity and individuality.
“Everyone seems like clones of one another now,” Hardy told MMA Fighting. “At one point, it was a free market, I had Earache Records sponsoring me, I had a bunch of smaller companies that had a bit of marketing budget that could get behind their favorite fighter, and then that sponsorship tax came in, which meant that maybe there was a sponsorship pool of maybe 10 companies left at a considerably reduced marketing budget that was then spread out across the roster. And they got watered down a little bit, and everyone lost a bit of cash.
“Then there was the next stage where the banners went, and it was just this constant squeezing the life out of it, and that’s the bit that hurts so much,” he continued. “Because these guys coming up now, the idea now is how do I protect myself and play the game and make the most money. You look back at the old Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler days, they were there for love of it, for the honor of it, for the privilege of standing in there and showing what you’re capable of. And I don’t know, it just seems like we’re moving away from that a bit now.”
Hardy (25-10) also examined the vicious cycle of matchmaking, building contenders and the transfer of star power.
“People say the word promotion, but they don’t really examine the word promotion, and that’s the thing that’s become more apparent to me over the years,” he said. “I had an up-and-down relationship with the UFC over the years, because when I first signed with the UFC, I thought we were one family in MMA and we were all walking toward the same thing. And those speeches that [UFC President] Dana [White] used to give after the weigh-ins, you’d be walking out of the room with your arm around your opponent, going, ‘C’mon dude, let’s give a great show tomorrow for the fans tomorrow.’ That’s how it made you feel. But then as soon as I fought [Georges St-Pierre], I realized I’d been kind of hustled along because there was a lack of contenders. I got that fight. Looking back now, it’s embarrassing what I was paid for that fight, what I gave and what it cost me to fight.”
“But then I look at my run after that, and you go OK, co-main event against Carlos Condit, who it was a win-win for them, because if I won, I’d won in front of my home crowd, and if he won, he was the next name to put in front of GSP as a new contender. Then I come off my first knockout loss and they put me against Anthony Johnson, and I just felt like all of a sudden I was being cycled out. I’m going to fight anybody and everybody.”
Hardy, who prior to being released was campaigning for a UFC return after a nine-year-long retirement, wishes more care was shown for aging veterans who still want to compete on the grand stage.
“I see that more and more now. Well, this guy’s got a name, so we’ll either use him against another young fighter and build that person up,” he argued. “Let’s bring Ken Shamrock out of retirement and have him fight Rich Franklin because no one knows who Rich Franklin is, even though he’s one of the highest-ranked middleweights in the world, and we need a contender.
“It’s that kind of feeling, and I just wish there was some kind of care for fighters like [Donald] ‘Cowboy’ [Cerrone] and Jim Miller and Clay Guida and Diego Sanchez that they still want to fight,” he concluded. “We can still celebrate them on the top stage of the sport, and they don’t need to be in this shark tank with all these young guys trying to keep their head above water. But they’re a commodity that’s being used to promote the younger generations of fighters, and it puts everyone in a weird situation where no one really wants to be doing that. The young guys coming through and beating these legends they used to look up to, it doesn’t feel good for either party. That’s something else I feel could be better dealt with, I think,” Hardy concluded. “It would be a better look for the sport, as well.”