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Dan Hardy expects to learn final verdict about fighting future in early 2017: ‘I’m just trying to be at peace with it’

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Dan Hardy Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dan Hardy found himself unexpectedly in the headlines this week when UFC on FOX 22 co-headliner Mickey Gall called out Hardy live on prime-time television. Gall was hoping to set up a fight with “The Outlaw,” and while that didn’t end up coming to fruition, it did shine a light back onto the 34-year-old former title challenger who has been sidelined for over four years since a diagnosis of Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome (WPW) abruptly halted his fighting career.

WPW is an extremely rare heart disorder that Hardy learned he possessed in 2013 prior to a scheduled UFC fight against Matt Brown. The diagnosis forced Hardy to examine other career paths, and ultimately led him to discover his abilities as a commentator and analyst, which he now works as under the UFC umbrella. But Hardy has never stopped believing in his fighting dreams, and the one-time UFC title challenger expects to receive a final verdict on any potential Octagon return early next year.

“I’m going through more tests in January and hopefully I get some good news,” Hardy revealed Monday on The MMA Hour. “The doctors that I’m going to see have already seen my test results from back when I was testing for the Matt Brown fight, and I don’t know what the news it going to be. I’m open to either way.

“I’m just trying to be at peace with it. I’ve got so many good opportunities coming through with the UFC. I’m just beginning to start on a new three-year deal as a commentator. I love my analyst job. I’m in London right now ready to record the Inside the Octagon for (UFC) 207. We’re pulling apart three fights for that and I just love it. I love being obsessive.”

Hardy said he plans to spend two days undergoing tests at a sports cardiac specialist just outside of London. The lab is comprised of “the best people in country” when it comes to cardiac problems in athletes, according to Hardy, and he expects to receive a “completely honest, impartial opinion.”

The past four years have been an exceedingly frustrating journey fraught with unanswered questions, but one way or another, Hardy expects this final round of testing to finally give him the sense of closure he has been seeking.

“This will be the one,” Hardy said. “So I’m going in, it’s two days of testing. I’m doing pretty much everything I need to do to find out where I’m at, not only for my fight career, but with my health as well. It’s a weird thing. It’s a weird thing to be told that all of a sudden there’s something wrong with you, when I’ve had no symptoms or issues or side effects or anything. I pushed my heart more than most people ever will and it’s never failed me.”

Hardy (25-10, 1 NC), with his trademark red Mohawk and fan-friendly style, was once one of the UFC welterweight division’s most popular fighters. He debuted for the promotion in 2008 and promptly rode four straight wins into a title fight against legendary champion Georges St-Pierre. Though he lost to St-Pierre, Hardy continued to fight in the UFC for several years, winning bonuses for his performances against Chris Lytle and Duane Ludwig.

Through it all, Hardy always seemed to be enjoying himself more than anyone else in the room. So when people ask him why he would ever want to return to fighting when he already has a non-combative job within the UFC, Hardy’s answer is simple.

“Because I love it. It’s as simple as that, I love it,” Hardy said. “Dana (White) said the same thing to me. I’ve spoken to him a few times and every time he says the same thing, it’s like, ‘why the f*ck would you fight again? You’ve got a job for life.’ I get it. I totally get it, and I’m totally appreciative of where I’m at.

“But if I knew in the back of my head that I’ve got the option just to step in for the occasional fight when I wanted, I mean, that’s a great option to have, especially with this sport as it is and all these massive marquee fights that are happening, guys pulling out at the last minute and there being a mad search for a replacement. It’d just be nice to be able to have the option to throw my name in that hat.”

Ultimately, Hardy has reconciled the fact that the final decision regarding his fighting fate is out of his hands. Four years on the shelf have given him plenty of time to think about what is important in life and how even a worst-case scenario can sometimes prove to be a blessing in disguise.

So hey, if good news arrives at his doorstep in January, then he will be thrilled. But even if it doesn’t, Hardy has prepared himself for that moment.

“If the option is taken from me, then I can’t resist it. I can’t fight it,” he said. “Something my mom said to me when I first found out in March 2012, before the Matt Brown fight – my mom, I was speaking to her on the phone and I was saying, ‘this may be it, this may take the option away from me.’ And she said, ‘well, maybe that’s the only thing that would take the option away from you, because you would’ve just fought and fought.’ I would’ve done a Dan Severn and fought until I was in my sixties. And that’s just my mentality, my mindset.

“It’s not until these last three years that pulled me away from it and forced me to look in different directions, and kinda almost discover new talents that I didn’t really know I had. I’m realizing I’m very good at communicating with people, and this sport is in dire need of people who can talk to people who have never heard of the sport and still have preconceived conceptions of what it is. And one thing I love doing in this analyst role is to be able to present the sport in a light that most people won’t see at first glance.

“You see two guys in a cage, bloodied up, and immediately people jump on the defensive and close off to it. Whereas, if they could hear somebody talking about what’s going on and the intricacies of the sport, they’d realize that these two people are actually in there by choice and they’re learning about themselves because of it. The blood is just a side effect of it, and we accept that as an occupational hazard. There are a lot of people that love the sport that aren’t able to communicate why they love the sport, and I feel like I have an ability to do that. Almost like I have a responsibility to do that.”