Dan Hardy: ‘The UFC want to see that people have Amateur experience’

Picture: Former UFC welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy interviews former WBA heavyweight boxing champion David Haye, and discusses Amateur MMA.

2016 has seen increased momentum for a new era of MMA on an international scale; one that has shown how patience and determination can prevail both in and out of the cage. Young prospects have proven their worth and perennial underdogs have been crowned champions.

Meanwhile, social and political support for MMA has triumphed in one corner of the globe, but has been greatly tested on the opposite side. The foundations of a new era have been laid and continue to rise with increased regulation, reform and understanding.

While MMA regulation is most strongly tied to the principles of safety and drug testing, IMMAF Member Nations around the world have added to the list of essential ideals with athlete development; ensuring that opportunities are available on a well regulated grass roots platform that offers a pathway for Amateur competition, leading from recreational participation to the elite level IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA.

MMA is indeed a sport that has grown from back-to-front. The professional scene exploded as the be all and end all; a gold rush with young athletes and promoters diving in to stake their claim. Now, the grass roots are flourishing a little more with enhanced regulation and development of well educated Amateurs perfecting their craft with stability and patience.

UFC welterweight veteran and TV analyst Dan Hardy has lived through various periods of MMA’s fast paced evolution with a front row view since his career debut on the UK domestic scene in 2004. He embraces the importance of athlete development with great enthusiasm, himself being a product of an unstructured, pioneering generation that approaches today’s sport with with a fertile mind.

“There were no options before,” Hardy recalled while talking to IMMAF.org. “But now you’ve got options. Get your amateur experience before you go pro.” 

On May 14, Hardy attended the UKMMAF National Championship Tournament in Birmingham, England, and expressed his keen interest in becoming more involved with Europe’s Amateur scene, alongside his UFC analyst duties which see him cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

“We need Amateur MMA to start feeding that next level of pro fighters. I don’t think we’re doing as well as we could be here in Europe, so we need this kind of stuff.

“A lot of people right now see the sport growing so quickly and they want to be a part of it. I can understand these amateurs might get five or six wins under their belt and think why not step over and start getting paid. It’s a legitimate question but for me it’s about whether you’re interested in the money or the success. I was always interested in being the best and I wish I could have got more Amateur experience, but I just didn’t have the opportunity, so I had to turn pro to get the fights.”

Hardy is part of a generation of MMA athletes who turned pro at an early stage. Having been far from the experienced fighter that he would become, the future UFC title contender was defeated in his professional debut, but explains that he would have jumped at the opportunity to channel the ability within himself, as an amateur, should the opportunity have been available. As it is for transitioning boxers, Hardy agrees that vast amateur experience is what opens the gate towards prominence at the pro level with far less delay.

“If I could have had 100 Amateur fights before turning pro, I would definitely have taken that experience. It’s only going to serve you better in your career. Ultimately, when you get to your pro career, you want to have 10 fights at the most and then get in to a big organisation. You don’t want to be scuttling around on the local scene for 25 fights like I did.”

The 2016 IMMAF World Championships take place next month from Tuesday, July 5 – Sunday, July 10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, in conjunction with the 5th Annual UFC International Fight Week and Fan Expo. Hardy looks forward to attending what will be the biggest World Amateur Championships to date, showcasing an international talent level that is continuously raising the bar of elite level Amateur fighters.

“The more the Amateur scene gets established, the better it’s going to be for everybody. With the amount of talent that’s growing, people are going to start realising that your amateur records matter, with the amount of experience that you’ve had, not necessarily wins and losses. The UFC want to see that people have had fights.”

As a proud sponsor of IMMAF, the UFC will have its eyes on the Amateur World Championships next month, as will several other notable promotions worldwide who have taken on  veterans of IMMAF’s Amateur platform. A seasoned Amateur record is the most recognisable sign of dedication to oneself as an athlete, and this impression breeds confidence among the big name talent scouts.

“The UFC want to see that people have Amateur experience, that they’ve got commitment to the sport and they can perform on the night.”

Written by IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran