by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com

You could call Dan Hardy one of those “ahead of his time” kinds
of guys.


He began his career in mixed martial arts in England, when
there really were no careers to be had in the sport.


Hardy paid his dues, taking his first professional bout in
2004. He worked his way up, primarily through the ranks of the Cage Warriors
Fighting Championship, where he held titles as both welterweight and light
welterweight champion, until the sport finally developed to the point that
being a full-time mixed martial artist was a legitimate pursuit.


When the Ultimate Fighting Championship started its
international expansion efforts, they looked first to England, where the small
scene that Hardy was dominating was starting to gain some traction. Not long
after, they finally took notice of Hardy’s efforts, signing him to fight at UFC
89 in late 2008.


He hasn’t looked back.


Hardy has won 11 of his 12 most recent fights, including
three straight in the Octagon. The UFC didn’t give him an easy road either. His
first three bouts have amounted to wins over Akihiro Gono, Rory Markham, and
Marcus Davis, all tough journeyman fighters known for hard-nosed, bruising
efforts, win or lose.


His persistence, however, has paid off. He steps in the
Octagon with Mike Swick on Saturday night at UFC 105 in Manchester, England, in
a bout to determine the next challenger to welterweight champion Georges St.


But Hardy didn’t get to where he is by looking so far into
the future that he overlooks what’s standing right in front of him.


“I don’t really think about (the title shot) much, to be
honest,” he told
. “Swick is the next opponent and my focus is on fighting him.
If the next opponent is GSP then so be it. I’ll fight anybody the UFC puts in
front of me.


“The UFC puts the heads on the block and I just take ’em


A title shot is on the line, and Swick is not a fighter to be
taken lightly. In 10 UFC bouts, his only stumble was a decision loss to Yushin
Okami at UFC 69, the American Kickboxing Academy standout’s last bout at 185


That’s when he determined his frame was better suited to the
170-pound division. Swick started off a little slow in his first two bouts in
the class, despite winning both, but hit his stride with crushing knockouts in
his two most recent wins to reach the cusp of a title bid.


In short, he’s tailor made for Hardy… or so says the animated


“He’s aggressive, he’s exciting, he likes a good fight, and
I can knock him out. That’s everything I want in an opponent.”


Swick said recently that he doesn’t just want to win he
wants to “make a statement.”


That’s fine by Hardy. He doesn’t want to take the safe road
to a title shot, either; he wants to earn it with a fight that leaves fans
blown away.


“I want 15 minutes of war until one of us hits the canvas.”


here to watch MMAWeekly.com’s one-on-one interview with Dan Hardy as he
prepared for the UFC 105 bout with Mike Swick.)