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Dan Hardy returns with harrowing, rewarding tales of his sea voyage

Clipper Race

Dan Hardy has always been an adventuresome sort, having spent time with the monks at the Yee Hee castle in Changchun to building his own American muscle cars. But his latest adventure — 28 days at sea aboard Team Great Britain’s yacht in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race — takes the cake.

At least for now.

Hardy and a crew of 23 sailed from London to Rio de Janeiro amidst a fleet of a dozen vessels. Hardy arrived in Brazil earlier this week with a new understanding of what it means to be truly isolated. And on Monday, he appeared on The MMA Hour to describe his experiences. He said the relentless navigation of the sea was more harrowing than he thought it would be.

"It was far more difficult," he told Ariel Helwani. "There’s no rest, it’s just constant work. You rest for four hours [at a time], but even when you’re resting the boat’s moving and rocking back and forth and you can’t really sleep properly, and you’re always listening for a ‘man overboard’ cry or a sail change that needs doing in a storm. It’s actually exhausting. I’ve been out for 28 days now. I’ve lost a bunch of weight, and I’ve grown a beard. I’m still mentally strong, but I’m going to need a few days off to recover from this."

First thing Hardy did when getting to Rio was to shower, eat a big bowl of fruit, and then drink a cold bottle of mineral water. It was a long, arduous trek across the void. Hardy said that when he started out, it was all bells and whistles with a parade down the Thames River in London, past the Tower Bridge, out the Channel and into the Ocean.

Yet once Team Great Britain hit the void, the vessels turned into dust particles on the linoleum. All communication was lost. It was just him and a small team of sea dogs battling the elements.

"When you start to lose sight of the other boats, you lose sight of land, and literally there’s nothing around you — to the point that you don’t see planes or anything," he said. "There were points in the race where the nearest other people were your crew and space station. That blows my mind. Just to be so far away from everything I’m used to. No emails, no calls, no nothing. Our media station went down, so we couldn’t send or receive emails. All of our navigation equipment failed after the first two days so we didn’t have any way of actually predicting weather forecasts or anything like that. It was all done based on charts and looking at the sky. Basically like reading the clouds and trying to figure out the best way through with the right sails."

Of the harrowing experiences, Hardy said that one of his crew ended up with a broken forearm, that he aided in resetting. News that a crewmember from the South African vessel had died in the first week of the journey didn’t inspire confidence, either. And he said at one point, another boat nearly capsized.

"We had a couple of really bad experiences with the other boat being knocked completely down so the mast was effectively in the sea, all the sails were in the sea," he said.

But Hardy and his team reached dry land. He will be in Rio for the next week as he tends to business there, before he sees Team Great Britain off on its next leg to Cape Town, South Africa. They will continue on without him, which he said stirs up a little sadness.

Still, he said the experience was enriching, even if it left him different mentally and physically.

"I’ve certainly leaned down quite a lot, I would say I’ve lost maybe five or six or seven pounds," he said. "It’s hard to tell just from looking, but I do feel stronger honestly. It’s difficult to really develop any kind of muscle strength when you just don’t sleep long enough, when you get two or three hours at a time. But certainly my mental strength is different now.

"It was kind of like my trip to China, it was very similar to that in a lot of ways. When I got back from China I felt like a very different person, I felt like I could take on the world. And I really do feel like that now. And I have taken on the world, a big portion of it. I mean, the Atlantic Ocean is a huge space, a massive expanse of ocean. You never really get that when you fly across it, you see it on the chart once you’re on the plane, but to actually connect with that distance and to see it all day everyday for a month, and to be traveling across it on the surface, it really puts it into perspective of how massive this planet is, and how little we see of it on a daily basis."

Before Hardy had set sail, he had a plan to return, do his commentary on the UFC’s return to Dublin on Oct. 24, then go through a training camp to see if he could be cleared to fight again. Hardy was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2013 known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which at least for the time curtailed his career. It hasn’t affected him, and he doesn’t believe it will. Hardy said that his goal was to fulfill his contract with the UFC, which still has three more fights left on it.

Asked if his sail across the Atlantic had changed his mind about anything, the 33-year old Hardy said it didn’t.

"Not really changed anything, just added a lot to it," he said. "I still feel like it would be nice to be in a competitive atmosphere again, although it’s very different not having your opponent [set], seeing the on charts, knowing approximately where they are in comparison to where you are. It’s difficult to stay motivated. So I like the competition side of mixed martial arts, and I do miss it, and I plan on getting back to it.

"But other areas of my life I want to develop. I to really focus on commentary and analytics of mixed martial arts. It’s something, I have an interesting perspective and I think I can continue to develop these skills and get people more insight into the sport. Just the general thought process of where I’m being a martial artist, being a competitive athlete."

Hardy said he had other goals in mind, too, such as finishing a book he has been working on.

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