The last thing Dan Hardy expected to hear in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday was a callout from one of UFC on FOX 22's big winners.
Hardy was watching the event live from the U.K. when co-headliner Mickey Gall submitted Sage Northcutt with a second-round rear-naked choke. Gall then surprised fight fans by asking for a dance date with "The Outlaw." The moment was especially unexpected considering that Hardy's last fight was over four years ago, but the Englishman took it all in good fun.
"I almost spat my tea out of my mouth when I was watching it," Hardy said in a joint interview with Gall on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It was like four o'clock in the morning when I was watching, and I just wasn't expecting it. I appreciate the callout. I appreciate the respect that you've shown me. But I've never fought anybody with less than eight fights, not even in my first pro fight. It's just, we're in different phases of our careers.
"I'm not looking at knocking off a future contender that I'm possibly going to commentating for in the future. And at the same time, if I was going to fight, I want to fight a veteran. I want to fight someone who's had 20, 30 fights, who's matured in their game and is sure of their fighting style, rather than someone who's still developing. I like to see the development of these young fighters and I don't want to interfere with that in any way. I'm 10 years older."
Gall has made a name for himself for a string of UFC callouts in 2016, starting with his bout against CM Punk and leading into his prime-time tilt against Northcutt. The strategy has paid major dividends for him over the course of the year -- his high-profile placement on UFC on FOX 22 despite his relative inexperience is proof of that -- but in this case, Gall took his declined invitation in stride.
"He has a right to feel that way," Gall said to Hardy in response. "I respect that too. That's cool. You're a legend. It would've been an honor to fight you. That's cool, man. I love you, Dan."
Hardy, 34, used to be one of the more popular figures in the UFC welterweight division, however these days he is more of a media figure than an active fighter, working as both an analyst and color commentator under the UFC umbrella.
The switch from a fight life to the one he lives now was forced in 2013, when Hardy was diagnosed with the heart condition Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. That diagnosis forced his hand and made Hardy look elsewhere for opportunities outside the cage, though he has always remained steadfast in his desire to return to professional fighting.
Hardy is actually scheduled to undergo two final days of testing in January to determine once and for all whether fighting is a viable option for him, so in that regard, Hardy understands where Gall was coming from and appreciates the 24-year-old's willingness to take a chance.
"I think he's realistic," Hardy said. "He said in the post-fight press conference that it was a bit of a haymaker, a bit of a wild callout, and I appreciate that. It surprised me, but I appreciate that. It was very respectful of him. I don't think it was done in bad taste in any way. I wasn't offended by it. But you know, there's 100 guys on the UFC roster who would be much better opponents for him right now.
"I don't want to beat up a kid that I'm enjoying watching," Hardy added. "There's a lot of older guys out there who have matured in their style, they know their fighting style, they know their capabilities, and there's a lot of fighters out there that I would be motivated to fight. And Mickey is a kid. I appreciate where he is in his career. He's had four fights and he's an exciting prospect for the future. I don't want to play a part in that, being a burden in his career in any way."
Of course, Hardy is also an analyst -- and a terrific one at that -- so he couldn't help but play a little fantasy matchmaker of his own.
Gall said this past weekend that Hardy's title fight against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 111 was the first UFC event he ever attended live. Hardy's own first UFC event that he attended live was UFC 85, which featured a headlining bout of Thiago Alves vs. Matt Hughes. And so he figured that if Gall was in search of a veteran opponent with a known name, Alves may fit the bill.
"That'd be a great fight for him," Hardy said of Alves-Gall. "That'd be really fun, if he wants to fight a veteran. A guy struggling to make 155. I think we should introduce a 162 weight class. Have those two guys pioneer that. ... 160 is five pounds over lightweight and 10 pounds under welterweight, and I think 162, the extra two pounds, it's a better meeting ground.
"We need more divisions. We've got fighters to make the divisions, there's no doubt about it. The sport is growing. We're having more shows every year. There are more places in the world that are producing fighters, that want shows. We need more weight classes. Fifteen pounds is a big jump. If you look at boxing, we're not close to 15-pound jumps. And we've got room. A light welterweight weight class at 162 would be great, maybe add a 178 in as well at some point."