For someone whose livelihood might be in jeopardy, Dan Hardy sure seems to be taking things in stride.
The popular UFC welterweight from Nottingham, England, was pulled from his planned UFC on FOX 7 bout against Matt Brown in San Jose, Calif. on April 20, after pre-fight testing done by the California State Athletic Commission showed heart irregularities.
Hardy tested for a condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, an abnormality colloquially referred to as "wolf heart." The condition is essentially a misfire in the heart's transmission of the electrical signals which regulate the heartbeat. A person suffering from "wolf heart" can experience chest pain, dizziness, palpitations and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.
For someone who isn't quite sure what's his next step, though, Hardy sounds like a person who has accepted the reality of his situation. Speaking recently to Bloody Elbow's Steph Daniels, Hardy said "I've been thinking about it, and I don't want to think for a second that I'm done fighting, because I still love training and fighting. At the same time, I also feel that there are lots of other things that I should be doing, things that I should be concentrating on in different areas of my life."
The test result came as a surprise to Hardy because he's experienced few, if any, of the symptoms usually associated with the syndrome.
"California requires extra testing, one of the tests being an EKG," Hardy told Bloody Elbow. "I have had an EKG one other time before this one. I had taken a short notice fight while I was training at ATT with Paul Daley in 2004, and one of the ATT guys pulled out of their fight, and I stepped in to replace him. That was when I fought Pat Healy. They did an EKG then because I had an irregular heartbeat, but they cleared me to fight anyway. That was the only time anything's really ever been noticed. Since then, I've never had an EKG. I've never had any symptoms, either. I'm in great shape. I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, which is ironic.
"Looking back, I've never had a single incident happen in my past that would make me think there was anything out of the ordinary," he continued. "Not one thing. I do a lot of meditating and a lot of breathing exercises, and I'm always very much aware of my heartbeat. I feel like I have great control over it. I can concentrate and slow it down pretty well. I've never felt better, and I've never had an issue.
Hardy admitted, given the American health care system's less-than-stellar international reputation, that he's considered getting a second opinion back home in England.
"Yeah, I've thought about a second opinion," Hardy said. "It's possible that I'll go back to the UK and maybe see a doctor or two there. I'm always a little bit suspicious of the American healthcare system, with it being a business, as opposed to being a service. That's always in the back of my mind when I'm getting this information. It is what it is, and yeah, I might go back to the UK to see what they have to say, but to be honest, I'm in a really good place right now, and I'm excited about what comes next."
In the meantime, Hardy's fight career is in limbo. Will other commission states and provinces license a fighter with his condition? Would the UFC allow Hardy on international events without athletic commissions, in which the company performs commission functions? Hardy told Bloody Elbow that to a degree, things are out of his hands.
"In the back of my mind, I've been thinking that if I did go ahead and fight, and something happened, then that would be on the sport. It's good that we've got this test in place, because we don't want something like that happening in the sport. Not only would it be a terrible thing, but it would do a lot of damage in the public eye. I think maybe more states should require this testing, as well. ...
"What it comes down to, though, is what the UFC is going to have to say on it. I certainly don't know where the UFC stands on using me to fight in other states, because obviously now, this will be on my medical record. I've got a wolf heart, and now everybody knows it. ... Then you have to wonder if the UFC can use me on shows in Europe or Australia, or things like that. Those are also options to consider. I just know that, at this point, I'm not going to have the surgery, because I don't think I really need it. If, at any point, I start to feel like it might be necessary, I'll start considering it. As of right now, I'm good, and I don't want anybody messing with me."
Whether he'll be able to continue fighting, though, Hardy says he's taken the diagnosis as a cosmic sign to consider the bigger picture.
"It's taken me to get to this point, where I'm living with health as a main priority," he said. "I am in the best shape of my life, and everything is starting to fall into place. I don't know ... maybe my journey through martial arts was to get me to this stage, where I can approach whatever comes next. I'm certainly feeling like it's a prod from the universe to kind of reassess and look at where I'm at, because I know there are a lot of things I want to do in my life as well, so this might be a good sign to refocus and do something different, perhaps."