You’ve had a fairly long layoff since your last fight against Chris Lytle in August. How’s training been going?
Great. I’ve been in Vegas, working with guys like Frank Mir – who’s fighting for the heavyweight title on Saturday – and it’s really working. I’ve always got people picking me up on mistakes I’m making. I can feel my level getting better every day. It’s a case of correcting some mistakes, re-learning some things, and then adding some new stuff and rounding out my game.
Do you think you could have used the break earlier?
Looking back, I should have stepped away from the sport for a while, maybe after the title fight with GSP [in March 2010 when Hardy unsuccessfully challenged Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight championship], definitely after the Condit fight [Hardy lost to Carlos Condit in October 2010]. But after the Condit fight, I felt as if taking a break wasn’t an option – I wanted to get back in there and get a win so I could start feeling like myself. But hindsight’s always 20/20 and although I should have taken a break, at the time I couldn’t see it. When I did step away it let me start again, start from scratch and work at it from the ground up. It was the right thing to do.
You’ve got an extensive background in ‘traditional’ martial arts such as tae kwon do and kung fu. Did that help you re-focus?
There’s a fine line that we walk between being a martial artist and being an athlete. You can be too much of one and not enough of another. Certainly, leading up to the title fight I was more of an athlete than a martial artist, and that’s where my style started to slip a bit. I was so concerned with being in shape, being fit and strong and big at the weight, that the technical side – the martial arts aspect – started to drop off a bit.
Ludwig’s a striker with the fastest KO in UFC history – 6.06 seconds – on his record. Are you expecting a striking match?
I’ve made the mistake of expecting a striking match before, and I got held down for 15 minutes by Anthony Johnson, so I’m trying not to fall into the same trap again. Obviously I know Ludwig’s strengths and he knows mine. The smart thing for him to do would be try to take me down. I’m the bigger athlete, and I feel like I hit harder than him. I have more variation in my striking as well. It makes it difficult for him, because he’s a more traditional, straightforward Thai boxer, so he doesn’t have as many options on the feet. There’s a lot less for me to have to deal with. He’s not really sure what I’m going to come with, and I’ve had a few months off, so I can come back completely different, whereas I’ve seen his last fight and I know what he’s about.
Have you had a chance to do any sparring with fellow Brit striker Paul Daley?
Not for this one - me and Paul work different schedules, and I’m in Vegas, while he trains a lot in Europe. Paul’s style is very different to Ludwig’s. He’s a very powerful striker and he relies a lot on his boxing, whereas Ludwig likes to fight at range. He likes to move forward and throw punches in combinations, and Paul’s got that one-punch knockout power which I’m not sure that Ludwig has. Paul would be a great training partner if I ever fought Thiago Silva, though. With Ludwig I need more upright Thai boxers – there are hundreds of them here in Vegas.
You’ve had some choice words for fellow welterweight Matt Hughes about his love of hunting and posing with pics of dead animals. Has he responded?
He’s said a few things and tried to be smart, but he’s not the sharpest guy in the world. I’m not sure I could have a good conversation with the guy. His intellect’s somewhat limited. I don’t think anyone should hunt animals for any reason other than food, and he hunts animals for photo opportunities, which is short-sighted and ignorant in my opinion… but that’s Matt Hughes to a T. He’s a hypocrite to boot. I’d love to fight the guy, but he’s getting to the end of his career and he wants to go out on a win, which won’t happen if he fights me.
You’ve fought both the welterweight champion St-Pierre and, since he’s been unable to defend his title because of injury, the interim champ Condit. Who are you betting on when they finally face off?
My money’s on GSP because of the way he approaches fights. I think he’s going to shut Condit down. Basically, he’ll just take away his options and win the fight – Condit can’t do anything to GSP. He’s a very tactical guy and he deconstructs opponents like it’s a puzzle game. Condit relies on his opponents making a mistake to turn the tide of the fight. You see that in a lot of his fights – with mine, that was quite a back and forth fight, but when he fought Rory McDonald, he was losing early on and turned it around. GSP’ll keep mixing up the striking and the wrestling and shut him out of the fight.
Nick Diaz announced his ‘retirement’ after losing a very close decision to Condit, but he’s got a very aggressive style, similar to yours. Would you be interested in fighting him?
Yeah, without a doubt. I enjoy watching Nick’s fights – personally I thought he should have won the Condit fight, and he poses more interesting problems for GSP. Me against Diaz is one that [UFC chairman] Lorenzo Fertitta says would be a good, entertaining fight. Diaz has got good boxing and great jiu jitsu. He comes to fight and he’ll take a shot to give a shot. He tries to win the fight before the bell, and that’s what I do too.
Dan Hardy is sponsored by Xyience Nutrition. Follow him on Twitter at @danhardymma or visit danhardymma.com
UFC 146 prelims are live on UFC.TV at 1am Saturday night/Sunday morning and the main card is live on ESPN at 3am.
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.