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Dan Hardy clarifies ‘choreographed’ fight tweet, but still baffled by Chael Sonnen’s performance at Bellator 170

Dan Hardy Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dan Hardy ruffled a few feathers by tweeting out that he thought Saturday night’s Bellator 170 main event looked fixed. In the fight, Tito Ortiz submitted Chael Sonnen to close out a two-decade long career in mixed martial arts. Yet Hardy, along with many others on social media, thought they smelled a rat.

“The #Bellator170 main event was more choreographed than a Brittany Spears music video. Shame really... It might have been a fun fight,” Hardy tweeted.

That comment kicked up a larger conversation about making such severe accusations, and Hardy — who was joined by other fighters like Justin Gaethje in echoing the sentiment — decided to nip things in the bud on Monday.

He appeared on The MMA Hour to discuss the accusation, and to let people in on his perspective.

“You’ve got to understand, I was being fatuous at the time,” he told Ariel Helwani. “It was a rather flippant comment, but watching the whole build-up, and I’ll give you exactly my perspective, from an analyst’s point of view. I saw Chael Sonnen selling this awesome story about how much it meant to for him to beat Tito, and the whole family thing came up.”

Hardy said he’d listened to last Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, when Sonnen was a guest, and said he bought into what Sonnen was saying heading into the fight. Namely, the narrative that it was personal between him and Ortiz.

“There was a great quote he said, and I’m probably going to butcher it, but it was something like, ‘you may not be done with the sport, but the sport may be done with you,’” Hardy said. “Great quote. So all of that going into the fight, I was expecting him to show up and to show grit and determination and heart, and give it everything he’s got.”

Hardy said he took note of Ortiz looking in great shape, but was put off by Sonnen’s performance, which he found to be a little too in line with the faux world of pro wrestling.

“Now, when I first watched it, the first time around, I didn’t the controversy of the tap, I don’t know what that was, and I’m not suggesting that Tito had anything to do with it,” he said. “To me, Tito looked like he was celebrating like he’d just won his UFC belt again. I think Tito was all in. My question is whether Chael Sonnen went into that fight with the intention of giving it everything he’s got. Because that was the story that he sold everybody, and that what was I was so disappointed with.”

Hardy said there were red flags all over.

“When [Sonnen] got in there, he did a very, very basic single-leg takedown, which even me with awful takedown defense could have stopped, and I’ll allow Tito’s the bigger man, but Chael’s been watching him his whole career,” he said. “He’s been planning on fighting Tito for his whole career, so surely he would have prepped for that. Second of all, just the progression that he allowed Tito to get to mount, and the lack of defense of the arm. I mean, there was no hand fighting at all. And then the finish of the choke, it wasn’t even around his neck.

“If you put your own head in that same position when you watch the fight, it’s silly to believe that…there’s a space, on the right side of his face, between the right side of your face and your right shoulder. And anybody who’s been in that situation and that position knows that it’s uncomfortable, yes, but it’s not a choke and it’s not a tapping position.”

Despite him tweeting the fight looked fixed, Hardy confessed that it had more to do with the baffling manner in which Sonnen competed. After watching the bout, he mentioned he was left with two conclusions — that Sonnen had “bottomed out” when it came to motivation, and realized in live action that he didn’t want to be in there anymore, or that the version of Sonnen post-suspension for PEDs was a shell of himself.

“Those are the two conclusions I’ve come to, and I don’t know which is more disappointing, because I was really excited to see him have a few more fights,” he said. “I mean, there’s talk about Wanderlei Silva out there and stuff. But if that’s the version we’re going to see, I’m just not interested. I’d rather see Tito come back and have a few more fights, because he looked like he was in better shape and wanted to fight.”

When asked to reiterate that, upon further review, he didn’t believe the fight was fixed, Hardy conceded that he did not.

“No, I don’t think so, I don’t think Bellator had anything to do with it, and I’m not necessarily saying the fight was contrived in any way,” he said. “That was just my first reaction when I saw it because I couldn’t think of any other way that Chael would have rolled over like that. And then giving my perspective of the fact that Bellator brought him in basically as a mouthpiece to draw in an audience, but I just never got the impression that they expecting him to do anything athletically. I mean, he’s 40 years old, and he’s been retired for a time. From my perspective it seemed like he was there to kind of give Tito this big boost, and he just looked like he didn’t want to fight.

“That’s what I’m saying, and I’m not saying that Bellator was in on it, and I’m not saying that Tito is in on it. And to be honest, what I’m saying now, after watching it a few more times — probably 20 or 40 times — Tito kept that squeeze on a bit too long. And this was discussed at the press conference.”

He went on to give an example of what he meant, as a fighter watching the action unfold in such a way.

“I know if I was in that situation, and this is the same if somebody taps to strikes, and the only time you’ll have to drag me off an opponent is if they are conscious and tapping to strikes, because I think it’s despicable…find a way out of it or, I don’t know, just don’t tap to strikes. Unless you’re actually physically injured, don’t tap to strikes.

“And in a situation like that, where you’ve got a half-finished submission and you’re squeezing and the guy’s tapping, if I was Tito I would be annoyed at Chael. Because he sold Tito this story that he was going to show up and give him a good fight. And Tito showed up ready. He looked like he was as good a shape as when he was fighting in the UFC in his prime, if not better. I thought he looked leaner. I thought he looked quicker. You know what I mean? So I think there was an element of disappointment for Tito there that he’d given up so quickly. Because he squeezed that on a bit tighter when he realized he was tapping. I’d have probably done the same thing if I knew the guy was tapping and he wasn’t really hurt.”

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