by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly managed to catch up with Dan Hardy before his flight out to Japan where he is scheduled to will face Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the final of the Cage Force Welterweight Tournament on Saturday.

Hardy has had a tough, but impressive run in the tournament so far, defeating Daizo Ishige in the quarter-finals and Hidetaka Monma in the semi-finals, both highly rated veterans – the former being the welterweight King of Pancrase and the latter a tough K1 Hero’s standout.

MMAWeekly: Dan, Tell us how you’re feeling for this fight?

Dan Hardy: I am feeling good, confident, he’s a tough guy (Yoshida), but I see myself catching him at the end of the second round, most probably with a high kick. It would be nice to have something like that on a highlight reel!

MMAWeekly: Tell us how preparations have been going for this fight.

Dan Hardy: Everything has been going well. I split things into two parts with the first being out in the U.S. training at the Legends gym with Eddie Bravo on my groundwork and Mac Danzig on takedown defense. Then back here in the U.K. at the Rough House gym to finish off with striking, doing a lot of pad work and working on how to fight a southpaw, plus all the usual basic stuff.

Everything has just gelled really well and working with the guys here, such as Andre Winner, Paul Daley and Jim Wallhead, has prepared me well.

I don’t see (Yoshida) trying to submit me. In fact we have a similar style where we both like to strike, so I think we will probably end up squaring up and banging it out.

MMAWeekly: Win or lose, obviously life goes on. What are your plans so far for 2008? A lot of people have really taken notice of your ascent this year.

Dan Hardy: I think my challenges here in the U.K. are dissipating. Paul Daley has dominated the U.K. welterweight division for some time now and Wallhead is continuing to expand and has taken over a lot of the players there as well. So it will be interesting to see what happens in 2008.

I am excited about my future, but I am not looking past Japan at the moment (and the fight), but I have good plans for 2008. I am just waiting for the best offers. Although I would like to fight in America, especially as I will be living there full time starting next year, I still haven’t ruled out Japan. The U.S. is a lot better for me because of things like sponsorship opportunities and so on.

MMAWeekly: Have you decided if you go to the U.S. what weight you will be fighting at? You made 155 pounds against Alexandre Izidro without issue and dominated, but welterweight has been your division so far.

Dan Hardy: I think that the extra weight gained after a cut suits wrestlers and grapplers, but because of my fighting style it doesn’t really affect me not being as big as some of the guys who cut a lot to make the grade. I will stay at 170-pounds and see how it goes from there. I am going to concentrate on packing on some solid muscle and strength, but I won’t allow it to affect my cardio. I always have gas in the tank in my fights.

MMAWeekly: Obviously you are training full time now, how are you finding making a career in MMA in the U.K. at the moment financially? Do you think the sport is ready to support a good career for a fighter yet?

Dan Hardy: Full time training has a lot of benefits in that I don’t have to worry about training around work schedules. I have the freedom to just get up and go. Fighting for GCM in Japan hasn’t been financially any better than fighting in the U.K., but the opportunities it has provided me to prove myself have been fantastic.

You just have to be very stringent in how you live on a fighter’s purse at this level. Its part of the sacrifice, driving a car that maybe doesn’t work all the time, stuff like that, but sponsors are the key to keeping things going and mine have been very, very supportive. I don’t have to pay for my supplements because MyProtein sorts that all out for me and my training gear has been provided by fightshop.com.

Something that is new for me is that Tapout are working with me for this next fight and we’re talking about doing a show together next year, maybe in America. So things are looking up from that point of view.

You just don’t buy things you don’t need – sounds simple right? (laughs)

MMAWeekly: I suppose the exchange rate helps matters when you go back to the U.S. because the pound is so strong?

Dan Hardy: You would think so, but GCM actually pays my fight purse in U.S. dollars. So although I don’t have to change any currency, I don’t get that same benefit.

MMAWeekly: Tell us about the planned move to the States.

Dan Hardy: I am going to be making the move in January. It makes things a lot easier for me. I spend so much time out there now training at Legends, and my girlfriend is American, and it will make things easier with the Visa situation, which is something we’re looking into at the moment.

I will probably come back after about three months of being there because there is three months left on my current visa, then pick up a three-year working visa, which will give me ample time to work on the areas of my game that need it. It’s difficult if it’s an indefinite move, but will definitely be for the foreseeable future.

MMAWeekly: What are the key differences between U.S. and U.K. based training camps? We’re seeing an increase of British fighters taking off to the States lately… most notably Tom Watson going to Greg Jackson’s and Jess Llaudin to Team Quest.

Dan Hardy: I think the deficit is on the ground. On the technical side, with regards to jiu-jitsu, we’re pretty close, but we’re way behind on technical wrestling and its application to MMA.

I also think that as a general rule in the U.K. the teams lack a little professionalism, things like getting up in the morning to go running. It’s too easy for guys to make excuses like, “Oh, I had to help a mate out with his car so I missed training.”

The U.K. has some good clubs out there, don’t get me wrong, but in terms of wrestling its not us leading the way; it’s undoubtedly America, Russia and the Middle East. I am finding massive improvements working out at Legends.

MMAWeekly: So does that mean you will become a Legends fighter as opposed to a Rough House fighter?

Dan Hardy: I will always be part of the Rough House. They are my team and I miss them when I am out in America. Legends adds a lot to my game and with Paul (Daley) travelling out a lot now and people like Jim (Wallhead) saying they want to come over, I think we should have a good network between the two camps.

MMAWeekly: Do you feel you were taken seriously in the U.K.?

Dan Hardy: I think people look at U.K. fighters and automatically assume we’re at a lower level. I mean, nobody gave me a snowflake’s chance in hell for this tournament, and I went out and beat the King of Pancrase and a very tough K-1 Hero’s vet. Now I am matched up against someone who at the beginning was viewed as a B-class fighter and I am still not being given a chance.

It’s like I am always being perceived as the underdog. I mean, if I got into the WEC and took the belt of Carlos Condit people would say I was lucky or something. Yet when they see a guy pop up in the UFC they assume they are on a different level. I just want people to take me seriously and take notice of what I am doing.

MMAWeekly: So tell us about the lead-up to the fight.

Dan Hardy: Tuesday morning I head to the airport and Ian (Dean) always meets me there with my visa and passport. It always sounds so last minute with that kinda stuff and puts pressure on him, but he does such a good job with me as do all the guys at Warrior Promotions. Then I head of to Japan.

I arrive out there something like 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning Japanese time; I am collected and taken to a hotel. Maybe sleep for an hour, but generally it’s a rest day as I don’t want it to interfere too much with my sleep patterns.

Thursday rest, I check my weight and make a decision on sweating it out or dropping it naturally. I weigh-in on Friday morning, then rest in the evening, chill and watch some films… Saturday I pack my bag and go beat the hell out of my opponent. Come Sunday and I am back on a plane to the U.K.

MMAWeekly: So more lead-in time in Japan on this occasion?

Dan Hardy: Absolutely. Against Ishige I weighed in the day before having just arrived and it messed everything up… sleep, acclimatisation problems, problems cutting weight and my performance in the fight could have been better. But my conditioning is always good. I have cardio for distance, but I was jetlagged massively and come the second round it showed. For this and the second fight (against Monma), we insisted two extra days out there before fight. A week would be nice but you have to be realistic.