Dan Hardy has compiled a 5-4 mark in the UFC. | Stephen Albanese/Tailstar.com
Much has changed in the nearly five years since Dan Hardy competed in his hometown. The 30-year-old former welterweight title contender returns to familiar haunts when he meets “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah in the UFC on Fuel TV 5 “Struve vs. Miocic” co-main event on Saturday at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
“The last time I fought here, the only people in the world who knew about it were in the arena -- about 700 people -- and now this is going to be broadcast worldwide with the UFC,” Hardy said. “I didn’t think I’d get the chance to fight in Nottingham again, but when [UFC President] Dana White announced the UFC [was] going to Nottingham, obviously, I was expecting a call.”
Performing in front such a partisan crowd brings with it an inherent burden. However, Hardy has grown accustomed to dealing with outside pressures. In May, he entered his UFC 146 matchup with Duane Ludwig on a four-fight losing streak, his roster spot in the company perhaps at stake. Hardy won by first-round knockout.
“There is pressure on me to win and score a KO because I’ll have hundreds of people in the arena [that] I’ve known for years,” he said, “but nothing -- nothing -- will compare pressure-wise to my last fight where my UFC career was one the line. Now I’m just taking it one fight at a time and am back enjoying fighting, rather than worrying about this being my job.”
Sadollah has spent his entire nine-fight career under the Ultimate Fighting Championship umbrella. The 32-year-old has recorded three victories in his past four outings, including a split verdict over Wanderlei Silva protégé Jorge Lopez at UFC on Fuel TV 3 in May. Sadollah burst on the scene in 2008, when he won Season 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series despite the absence of any professional mixed martial arts experience on his resume.
“Amir is a tough guy,” Hardy said. “He will push the fight on me, and he’s got a great chin. He’s going to push this very hard and bring a war. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, and I am confident that is enough.”
Another Hurdle for Hathaway
John Hathaway was at the front of the British movement in the UFC in May 2010, when, as a little-known but undefeated prospect, he upset “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez at UFC 114. He was 14-0 at the time and labeled a potential star at 170 pounds.
However, a subsequent hiccup against Mike Pyle five months later chipped away at much of the hype and made Hathaway a bit of a forgotten man within the welterweight division. Undeterred, the 25-year-old London Shootfighters export has rattled off back-to-back wins and will carry some newfound momentum into his featured bout with John Maguire at UFC on Fuel TV 5.
“I really want to show what I can do in this fight,” Hathaway said. “Everyone saw the best of me against Sanchez, but I think I am a much better fighter now. I’ve been in the UFC since UFC 93, and I’m still only 25 years old. I think I’ve got the right mix of big-fight experience while still being at the top of my game physically.”
Maguire sports a gaudy 18-3 record of his own. He has won seven consecutive fights, the last two of them inside the Octagon. Maguire submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 finalist DaMarques Johnson with a second-round armbar at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April. He has Hathaway’s undivided attention.
“This is a dangerous fight for me,” Hathaway said. “I think some people only know him from his UFC career, but John has fought all over the world and is actually more experienced than I am. I’m not overlooking him at all.”
In wake of back-to-back victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 runner-up Kris McCray and German grappler Pascal Krauss, Hathaway believes he has turned a corner in his career.
“I’ve learned a style which suits my body type,” he said, “and I think the next two years are where I’m going to really make a mark in the division.”
This & That
Four of the 22 fighters booked to compete at UFC on Fuel TV 5 are undefeated, and three more carry only one loss ... Stefan Struve has yet to successfully defend a takedown in UFC competition. He meets Stipe Miocic in the main event ... Unbeaten English lightweight Paul Sass has delivered 12 of his 13 professional victories by submission, eight of them via triangle choke. His opponent, Matt Wiman, has never been submitted ... Ludwig will enter his welterweight tilt with Che Mills on a two-fight losing streak. The 34-year-old Grudge Training Center representative has lost back-to-back fights five different times during his career. Ludwig has never lost three in a row ... Though known as a flashy striker, Yves Jabouin’s last four wins have come via decision. “Tiger” faces Brad Pickett at 135 pounds ... Jimi Manuwa, 32, carries with him a perfect 11-0 mark, but his 11 opponents have combined for just a .452 winning percentage and six of the 11 have losing records. Manuwa makes his promotional debut against the American Kickboxing Academy’s Kyle Kingsbury ... Heralded Icelandic import Gunnar Nelson will enter his first Octagon appearance on the strength of nine consecutive finishes, eight of them inside one round.