Antoni Hardonk discovered coaching through an organic process. During his time as a UFC heavyweight competitor, he’d train with guys like Vladimir Matyushenko and Jared Hamman, then find himself pointing out techniques to help them improve, just like a coach.
The Dutchman liked the feeling he got from doing such a thing.
“I wasn’t aware of it, but I got into a role more of coaching and I realized I liked it,” Hardonk told MMAWeekly.com. “It came naturally to me.”
Prior to coaching full-time, Hardonk was last seen in the UFC’s octagonal cage at UFC 104. His opponent was Pat Barry and the result was less than desirable – a loss by technical knockout due to strikes.
But where one journey ended, another began. Hardonk decided to take a hiatus from competition and settled down in Los Angeles, specifically in the shores of Santa Monica.
The change in environment came with a change in hairstyle, too. The military crewcut donned by Hardonk during his fighting days became a longer, more laid-back mane, typical of surfers you see in Hollywood movies. He jokes about it, saying the hairdo transformation mirrors that of Gandolf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy going from gray to white wizard. According to Hardonk, once the hair grew long, he gained more magical powers.
That being the case, the “Wizard of West L.A. MMA” works tirelessly in his gym, Dynamix MMA, preparing his fighters for competition, while at the same time not neglecting monthly gym members who come to get in a workout. Whether amateur, pro, or typical joe, Hardonk just loves to teach.
“I’m very happy with my life right now,” he says in reflection of his daily routine.
Don’t let the fact that he retired from fighting steer you towards an idea that Hardonk lost his competitive edge. He’s still competitive and it shows in the little things. Something as little as a game on his iPhone becomes something he has to get the highest score on. Share a meal with the man and he’ll even make a competition out of that.
The most productive way he illustrates his competitive nature is with the fighters he coaches in the UFC. Kamal Shalorus, Matyushenko, and Hamman are conduits of Hardonk’s passion for fighting and all compete at the highest level as a result. By keeping a strong line of communication with his fighters, he gets the best out of them.
“(He’s helped me) a lot, I would say,” said Matyushenko about his coach. “I think it’s not just (that we compliment) each other, but also we go at the same pace. We match each other.
“I like that atmosphere and being part of a team like that. I think it works for us.”
Indeed, it works for the team as much as it does for Hardonk and his current role as coach. No longer does the cage have a loud call for him to fight in it. It remains a faint whisper that’s drowned out by his deafening passion for teaching others.
From his days before as a kickboxer to now as a well-rounded MMA coach, Hardonk has enjoyed the ride. He couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else at this point because the fit is so perfect. From Octagon side, he proudly coaches his fighters, fulfilling his competitive hunger through witnessing their success.
This is what you call happiness.
“I’m happy I can be part of (the) competition and help a little bit.”