It’s been more than a year since Dan Hardy floated the idea of a UFC return, and while he might not meet his original target date, “The Outlaw” hasn’t given up on that goal.
“I would very much like to [make a comeback],” Hardy said during an interview on "UFC Tonight” Wednesday. “I’ve got a few fights left on my contract. I need to get cleared by a doctor; I am in the process of doing that. The sport is in such an amazing phase right now with these interesting super fights being made.”
Hardy has not stepped into the Octagon since taking a unanimous decision over Amir Sadollah at UFC on Fuel TV 5 on Sept. 29, 2012. In 2013, the British fighter was diagnosed with a heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can cause a rapid heartbeat. The condition isn’t always life threatening, but can lead to death in severe cases. That led to Hardy withdrawing from a proposed bout with Jordan Mein at UFC on Fox 7, and he has since transitioned to analyst duty for the promotion.
Hardy began his Octagon (online sportsbooks) tenure with four straight triumphs, earning a welterweight title shot against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 111. The Team Rough House product lost a unanimous decision there, and setbacks to Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle followed, Hardy ended his first UFC go-round with wins over Duane Ludwig and Sadollah.
However, Hardy has examined the climate of the organization today, and he is more interested in taking fun fights against well-known opponents than he is attempting to climb the rankings in hopes of another title shot.
“There are a lot of great fights. Of course ‘Cowboy’ [Donald Cerrone] would be a fascinating one because I respect him as a fighter, he’s a very accomplished fighter. He’ll take any fight, so I know that’s not going to be a question,” Hardy said. “But there are so many different fights in the division. My main focus is not to step into the rankings. I’m not interested in belts or rankings or anything like that.
“I want those occasional marquee fights where I can step in and be challenged by someone I respect and look up to and just give the fans a great fight. I don’t feel like my athletic career is over. I feel like I have more to give and I want to be tested by people that are really going to push me.”
While Hardy’s first 10 UFC bouts occurred at 170 pounds, the 34-year-old believes that he might now be better suited to fighting at lightweight.
“I’ve never done a test cut but I fought twice at 160. I felt very comfortable at that weight,” he said. “I certainly feel like it’s a better weight class for me, especially considering the monsters at welterweight right now. Especially given the fact that I don’t do well with the additional weight I put on when I was fighting at welterweight. I was so much quicker earlier on in my career, I was more agile. I have a taekwondo background. When I got above 200 pounds I couldn’t get my leg above my waist. It slowed me down. If I was to come back ’55 would not only be a better weight for my size, it would be better for my performance as well.”
Regardless of what division he fights, Hardy envisions himself being the man the promotion calls when its in a bind. And he expects to perform even better than he did when he worked his way to a title shot earlier in his career.
“If I come back it’s not going to be ‘Dan Hardy is on this card.’ Somebody is going to pull out and I’m going to throw my name in the hat and I’m gonna take an opportunity,” he said. “I don’t know what weight class. I’m a lot lighter than I used to be. My training’s changed; my diet’s changed. I feel so much quicker than I used to be. I’m a lot closer to the weight and condition that I was when I started my career, when I was walking onto the scales at 170.”