by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The Gracie connection to MMA spans back to the beginning of the sport, but a new twist to that connection plays a role in the upcoming main event for UFC 111 between welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and top challenger Dan Hardy.

For two weeks in February, St-Pierre went to New York City to work with an old friend by the name of John Danaher, who also happens to be one of Renzo Gracie’s most accomplished black belts, while also working with Gracie himself and fellow UFC welterweight Ricardo Almeida.

St-Pierre has long standing ties with Danaher, but also working with Renzo Gracie’s academy in Manhattan as he prepares for fights, and working with the team has always pushed him to the next level.

While on Long Island, British heavy-hitter Dan Hardy arrived earlier this week to close out his camp with none other than Renzo Gracie black belt Matt Serra, who will coach Hardy through the final preparations for the upcoming fight.

Hardy tells MMAWeekly Radio that working with someone like Serra, who has been in the cage with St-Pierre multiple times, can provide valuable insights, and help him get a win over the Canadian later this month.

“He’s 1-1 with GSP, obviously the first time he smoked him pretty quickly, and then the second time obviously it didn’t go his way. You know he spent some time in there with him, any kind of information with a guy who’s been in there with your opponent is always useful,” Hardy said. “I can sit down and talk with him, see what kind of experiences he had, and his opinions on GSP and the way he approaches the fight.

“It will just be an interesting experience what he can add to my game plan.”

Just leaving for home in Montreal a few days back, St-Pierre didn’t seem to care too much that Hardy was working with his old foe, and welcomes the challenge that the Brit can provide.

“I don’t mind,” St-Pierre responded when asked his thoughts on Hardy training with Serra. “He can train with whoever he wants. I’m the guy he’s going to face in the Octagon, and on March 27 he’s not going to have anyone to be with him. It’s going to be me and him in the cage, and I’m going to take care of business.”

As for Hardy, he was somewhat upset that St-Pierre left town before the two had the chance to meet at one of the Gracie family academies for a sparring session.

“That’s a shame. I was actually hoping to bump into him. Maybe we could get a training session,” Hardy said with a laugh.

The Gracie family will surely have a winner at UFC 111 whether it’s coming from GSP’s training at Renzo’s academy, or Hardy working with Serra. The sparring session two weeks out from the fight may have been something worth seeing though.