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Dan Hardy Relaxed & Ready for GSP and Opportunity of a Lifetime

NEW YORK -- He may be as much as an 8-to-1 underdog, but Dan Hardy certainly has the look and sound of a champion.

Hardy, who hails from Nottingham in the UK but lives part-time in Los Angeles, is known as a cool customer, but just two days from a potentially life-changing night, the UFC welterweight title challenger was positively beaming as he held court during a UFC 111 open workout at Peak Performance Training Center.

Telling the media that he's noticing a shift in fan attitude towards his potential for an upset, Hardy said he's ready to give the MMA world its biggest jolt since his new buddy and training partner Matt Serra stunned Georges St. Pierre in April 2007.

"When it comes to GSP, you can't dislike the guy," he said. "He never says anything offensive and never acts like a d*** like I do, so I get people disliking me and I understand it. To be honest, I think it's not so much they want me to win, but they want a change."

Indeed, St. Pierre's reign atop the UFC's 170-pound division has been a long one; spanning 25 of the last 33 months. Even before then finally capturing the title, he was considered by many to be the world's best welterweight.

But Hardy says during that long stretch, he's seen changes in St. Pierre's game that have taken away some of his previously explosive offense in favor of more cautious game plans.

"Without a doubt, when he came into the UFC originally, he was a lot more dynamic than he is now," he said. "He took a lot more risks. He was more exciting to watch. I always used to watch his fights. I'm a huge MMA fan aside from competing, so I've been watching it for years. As soon as a fighter comes onto the scene that is dominant, explosive and dynamic like Georges is, I'm a fan."

As a result, Hardy says he's fully expecting to be taken down, and at one point even said the fight will "depend on what Georges wants to do."

"If he decides to stand and trade with me, I'll be quite surprised," he said. "But obviously I'd like it at the same time. If it goes to the ground, I'm cool with that as well. I haven't used my ground game in the last few fights because I don't think like a grappler, I don't think, 'I'm going to take this guy down and submit him.' But if I end up there, I'll use my ground game if I need to. I think Georges is the kind of guy who can force that out of me if he chooses to."

Though Hardy can not yet rival St. Pierre in star power, he has fully embraced his role as the promotion's mouthpiece, noting that trying to incite the champion into a war of words is futile.

"It would just be a waste of energy and I'll end up looking like a d*** in front of all these cameras talking trash while GSP goes back to the script," he said.

Hardy spent the last several weeks in New York getting acclimated to his settings, shuttling between Long Island, Manhattan and New Jersey. He spent Tuesday night at a New York Knicks basketball game, he's seen his face on billboards and in commercials, and has been frequently stopped by fans who've recognized him and just wanted to shake his hand or wish him luck. Not surprisingly, he's loved every second of it.

On Thursday afternoon, he walked into the gym and was quickly engulfed by reporters and video teams holding notepads, recorders and cameras.

"Is there anything you want me to do?" he asked as he began his brief warm-up. Noting he was extremely hungry in the last 36 hours before weigh-ins, he told reporters he spent last night "dreaming about foot-long Subway sandwiches."

Hardy added that because this is his first scheduled five-round bout, that he was expecting to enter the cage a little lighter than in previous fights. Though he wouldn't specify his fighting weight, he confirmed that he'd probably be on the lighter side of his usual 187-195 pound range.

One of the few times Hardy got serious was when he was asked about how often he thinks about the man he is soon to fight.

Explaining that he often scatters photographs of his opponents on his walls and around his apartment as reminders of what he's working toward, he mentioned how he didn't have to do that this time around because St. Pierre's face has been everywhere he's turned.

"I've had him sized up for a long time, and now I can turn my focus entirely to him," he said. "I can't turn my focus past GSP because there is nobody after GSP."

The loose challenger then got in one more laugh.

"I size everybody up. I'm sizing up all of you right now," he said. "It's a natural thing I do, and I can't help it."

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