Dan Hardy made a successful UFC debut against journeyman Akihiro Gono at UFC 89, and now he moves up to the main card to take on Miletich camp slugger Rory Markham at UFC 95 this Saturday. In this exclusive interview “The Outlaw” discusses his strategy for avoiding Markham’s big bombs, the U.K. MMA scene, and the trademark Mohawk that he sports in honor of his nation’s punk rock pioneers.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for talking with me, Dan. What are you expecting out of Rory Markham on Saturday, and what’s your gameplan for dealing with him?
I expect him to come to try and knock me out. I don’t think it’s any secret what his gameplan’s going to be. My gameplan is going to be to stay out of the way of his punches and land my own strikes and wear him down. I think I’ve got the endurance advantage. I’ve been the distance in a few of my fights and he’s never experienced the end of that third round. I think I’ve got the advantage in conditioning and I’ll be able to drag the fight on a little longer until I get the chance to knock him out.
From some of your previous comments it seems like you think you won’t have any problem hitting him. Why is that?
I just think with him being such an aggressive fighter, not very often in his fights does he even move backwards unless he’s being hit. I don’t really think I’ll have to search too hard to be able to hit him, and I think I’ve got the advantage in speed, as well. I’ll be able to hit him quicker than he can hit me, so I’ll be able to avoid his punches but land my own at the same time.
I have a couple of teammates who fight a similar way. I’ve got a couple of guys on my team with real good punching power and I’ve got the ability to stay out of the way of the bigger shots. I mean, I don’t mind taking a shot when I have to take a shot, but my intention is to use my speed to keep out of the way of them. I’ve managed to avoid a lot of heavy shots in my career because of my reaction time. I think I’ll be able to read his movement and land my own shots pretty easily.
This is only your second fight in the UFC. First you fought Gono and now Markham, two very good opponents. If you win this one, where do you think it puts you?
I think it puts me right up there, sort of top ten or top fifteen. The UFC has got some great fighters. All the best welterweights, in my opinion, are in the UFC. I’m just looking to pick off one welterweight at a time. I’m not ready for the top three or anything at this point, but I’m certainly ready for the next tier down.
You’ve fought in a lot of different organizations. What’s it been like to move to the UFC?
It’s just so much more organized. You really feel looked after. There’s always someone there if you need anything, and you’re really treated like a professional. All of the concerns that a fighter normally has on other shows are really taken out of your hands and you don’t have to worry about them. All I have to do is concentrate on the fight and it makes that so much easier.
American fans often complain about the UFC’s UK cards because they don’t put as many big names on them. Usually it’s more British or European fighters that Americans don’t know, and the criticism is that the events are generally not as good as those in the states. What do you make of that criticism?
I don’t really see it as a criticism of UK MMA, to be honest. The UFC puts fighters on the card who are going to be a draw for the local audience. They have to do that to sell tickets and make the event viable. As far as people complaining about the UK cards, I think they’re usually free on Spike, so you can’t complain about something that’s free.
The good thing about these fights is you get to see a lot of new guys and they aren’t stuck on the undercard. This is only my second UFC fight and I’ve already been moved up to the main card and a lot of people are going to get to see me now. If it was on one the big UFC cards I’d probably be on the undercard and you’d have no idea who I am.
Dan Henderson recently said that he thinks UK fighters are a little behind American ones in terms of their development. What do you think about that statement?
I would agree with that, honestly. I don’t think it’s any secret that we are a bit behind in certain areas of the game. The UK has always been strong as far as striking goes. We’ve got a good pedigree as far as boxing and kickboxing. But we don’t have the resources to train wrestling like you do over in the states, and wrestling is a big part of MMA. It gives you the ability to dictate where the fight goes. So I would agree with that statement to some extent and I can see why someone who comes from a wrestling background would say that we’re behind. But I do think we make up for some of those shortcomings in other areas, and it’s not going to be long before we catch up.
When you say “other areas”, do you mean striking?
Yeah, I think we’re stronger strikers. It’s very easy in the U.K. to find a good boxing club to go to and work on your footwork and things like that, but over in the states it seems like you have to travel a good distance to find a good striking coach. And British fighters, I think we’ve always shown that we have a lot of heart. We’ve got a real ‘never back down’ attitude and one person who demonstrates that really well is Paul Taylor. He always goes into his fights and gives everything and he just loves fighting. That kind of epitomizes the British mentality, especially at this level.
Let’s talk about your hair for a second. Is that something you do to make people notice you and remember you as a fighter? Or would you be rocking the Mohawk even if you weren’t fighting on TV?
Oh, I’d be rocking the Mohawk anyway, without a doubt. I really love my punk music and my hardcore. I would have it no matter what. When I was younger I used to have long hair and I always said that if I ever cut it short I would dye it and do the Mohawk, and I think my MMA career really allowed me an arena to kind of express that flamboyancy and style. Now the red Mohawk’s become kind of a trademark and people get a little disappointed if they see you and you don’t have it, so I kind of have to keep up that image. They expect it, and I don’t like to disappoint.
What punk bands do you like?
Well, I’m listening to a lot of UK Subs at the moment. And Cock Sparrer, which I’ll be using as my entrance music for the fight. The majority of the bands I’m into are like The Angelic Upstarts, The Cockney Rejects, all the traditional British punk bands.
Strictly old school stuff for you, then.
Yeah, I’m not so into most of the newer punk, more like the seventies stuff. I got that from my dad. He was growing up in those times and a lot of his vinyl’s was how I first got into it.
Obviously you’re going to be the crowd favorite against Markham in London. Does that really help at all once you’re inside the Octagon?
Yeah, to a certain extent it helps. The biggest part for me is not having to travel too far to get to the venue where I’ll be fighting. But the British fans are great. They support their fighters through thick and thin. They’re just happy to see you representing the country. And when you walk out and that crowd erupts, you know you’ve got all those people behind you, it does give you a new level of confidence going into the fight.
Where do you think Markham ranks among the other opponents you’ve faced?
I certainly think he’s up there. He’s at least in the top five. But I think a lot of people don’t realize the kind of competition I’ve fought. I know Rory Markham made a comment that I hadn’t fought anyone as experienced as him, but the reality is the last few guys I’ve fought have all had good records, like 15-4 or 17-3, whereas the last guy he fought before stepping into the UFC was 9-26.
I never shy away from guys with good records. Chad Reiner was a tough guy and it took me to the end of the third round to knock him out. I’ve been over to Japan and fought the King of Pancrase, beat him, and retired him, in fact. I beat Daniel Weichel from Germany, whose a tough European fighter. I definitely think Markham ranks up there, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the UFC, but I don’t think he’s got anything I haven’t seen before.