Dan Hardy has been in almost every position, both mentally and physically, inside the cage in his UFC career.
He was a struggling prelim fighter. He was a title contender being counted on to promote a major pay-per-view. He fought guys he didn't like. He fought guys he did like. He's knocked people out and been knocked out. He battled with his back against the wall and his job seemingly at stake. He went all over the world to train and learn. His career may have been cut down by an affliction that doesn't bother him in the least. And he has no trouble talking about it.
He will be providing the insight from all those experiences as part of the UFC's new broadcast team for the European and Middle East market.
Hardy will be the fighter analyst of a team that includes John Gooden, the former Cage Warriors commentator in the U.K., and soccer emcee Andy Friedlander. The trio will become the company's third English-language commentating team, along with the long standing Mike Goldberg/Joe Rogan duo that handles the pay-per-view and FOX shows, and the Kenny Florian/Jon Anik team that does fights on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and other international Fight Pass shows.
They will start to work on the March 8 show in London, England at the O2 Arena, headlined by Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa. The team will be the company's Europe, Middle East and Africa announcing team. For now, that means Europe and Abu Dhabi, primarily on events that will air on UFC Fight Pass in the United States.
The team will be working together for the first time this weekend. Hardy has some experience and has gone through several screen tests before he was hired for the job. He said that after a little big of tweaking, he already feels comfortable in the spot, saying it's now easier than he thought it would be.
"We're going to have a practice run this weekend," he said. "The guys are coming to town. We're going to get some time together so we know what to expect when London comes around.
"John--he's going to do a fantastic job. He gives me a little confidence because he's very organized and I'm not so organized. I think we'll make a good team. I think we can improve the quality of the commentary, without taking anything away from anyone else. With me and all my experiences, we can point out things fans haven't seen before. I've experienced everything from a four-fight losing streak to a world title shot. I've experienced that pressure and can relate that to the fans.
"To be honest, I don't have a great deal of experience (commentating) at live shows," he said. "I did some small level shows, but this is a real step up. The UFC wanted to see if I can do the job. They put me through some screen tests. I did fights that I hadn't watched before. I've been watching fights, analyzing fights, all I have to do is tell the fans how I feel when watching the fights."
Hardy (25-10, 1 no-contest), a welterweight who headlined a major pay-per-view in challenging Georges St-Pierre for the title four years ago, has been out of action for 17 months, since being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. WPW is heart abnormality that caused the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) to red flag him. It's not an abnormality that affects ones athletic performance, so he feels fine, in fact, better than ever. He didn't want to get the heart surgery the commission wanted to license him. With no symptoms, most who have it never know and it doesn't affect them. However, in about 0.6 percent of people with the affliction, they can suddenly die without warning from cardiac arrest.
"I'm still training every day," he said. "I'm only 31. Unfortunately, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my whole life. For the time being, I'm seeing a cardiologist getting this all figured out."
But his experience with every aspect of training and fighting he feels will allow him to give a different type of perspective in calling the matches. His mentality, after some trial and error, is to just do what he'd do if he was hanging out with his friends watching a fight and explaining what he's seeing.
"I was spending too much time thinking about what I was saying rather than doing what comes naturally," he said about prior announcing experiences. "When I started my screen test, I was processing before I was speaking. I finally realized it and just started speaking like I'd talk to a friend, and it became so much easier. John and I can just be fight nerds."
"Although it's a job, it doesn't feel like one," he said. "This is just a great opportunity for me. I get to be a UFC fan again. In the UFC, as a fighter, it's very difficult to watch a card and just enjoy it for what it is. When you're competing and watching guys you may fight, you think you should be learning and studying. But now, I can't wait for the (Rory) MacDonald-(Demian) Maia fight (on Saturday's UFC 170 show). I don't have to watch it and think about how I'd deal with these guys. I'm looking forward to watching Mike Pyle and (T.J) Waldburger, (Robert) Whittaker and (Stephen) Thompson. All three of those fights are in my weight class, but I can watch them as a fan."
He also said it's goring to be a different experience being around fight week, without the pressure of a looming fight, or cornering a fighter, which he said can be just as unnerving.
"I've always enjoyed fight week," he said. "I enjoy the hotel, the whole fight week experience, the fighters in the hotel, the different camps, the camaraderie and the tension of fight week. From this point, until I fight again, I'll experience it from the other side of the table, not as a fighter or a corner man, which is also exhausting. I can be completely unbiased, and hang out with the fighters."