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Shelly Vincent explains crashing Heather Hardy’s Bellator weigh-in

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Bellator MMA

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Shelly Vincent was in town visiting her grandmother and had just finished training when an idea popped into her head. Her rival Heather Hardy was going to be nearby, and with a short drive, she could share the same airspace and demand something she says she is owed.

A year ago, Vincent traveled to Hardy’s home turf in Brooklyn for a 10-round WBC featherweight (125-pound) championship boxing match that ended in a majority decision for Hardy. To say Vincent disagreed with the decision is an understatement. She wants to run it back. She needs to run it back on her own home turf, and her idea was to force the dialogue for it to continue by forcing herself into Hardy’s line of sight.

The weigh-in crash was never designed to be anything more than it was, a reminder that she was waiting, a reminder for Hardy to come back to where Vincent thinks she belongs, in the boxing ring.

“I said, ‘Are you almost done hiding over here?” Vincent told MMA Fighting on Friday night, where she attended the Bellator 185 event. “What eats me up is that we’re advocates for the sport. We’re fighting for women’s equality. We’re fighting for the kids behind us to be brought up the right way, and then you abandon the sport for money and fame? You can’t just quit. That’s showing the wrong example to our youth.”

The true source of her frustration though is a bit more personal, coming from what she views as a broken promise for a rematch. In April, Hardy was featured in Rolling Stone, in a story that highlighted her rise through personal traumas including sexual assault. As a fellow rape survivor, Vincent reached out to Hardy to commend her on sharing her story. Eventually, she says, the dialogue turned to a rematch. Vincent had heard that Hardy was asking for a $100,000 purse, a figure that hasn’t been seen in women’s boxing since the days of Laila Ali. Vincent says that Hardy agreed that she would ask for something more reasonable in hopes of getting the deal done.

Then, a short time later, she heard Hardy wasn’t doing that at all. To her, that meant only one thing: that Hardy was ducking her.

Friday night was simply an in-person reminder to Hardy of their previous conversation. It was never supposed to get physical, unless...

“If she would’ve done something, I definitely would’ve done something,” she said. “I didn’t go there to fight her, just to let the public know. Tell them what’s real. Sometimes to make the fight happen, you gotta bring the fight to them. I know people say, ‘You’re trying to eat off her fame.’ But the [first Vincent-Hardy] fight would’ve never been on TV if it wasn’t for me. I’m the one with the personality.”

Don’t get it twisted, Vincent says she respects Hardy’s game and her toughness. Even more so after Hardy weathered a hellacious beating by Kristina Williams on the Bellator 185 main card, only to be stopped by the cageside doctor after apparently having her nose shattered.

Shelly Vincent
Shelly Vincent
NBC Sports

Vincent may have played a tiny role in Hardy’s defeat, not because of her presence but by something she said to Williams.

After the quick weigh-in dustup, she says she managed to contact Williams and let her know she didn’t mean to trample on her moment. And just in case the apology wasn’t enough, she threw in a nugget.

“I talked to her, and I let her know, ‘I want you to know I wasn’t disrespecting you. If you felt like I was disrespecting you, I apologize,’” she said. “I said, ‘Heather leans a lot. She’s a a target because she leads with her head. She did, right? I feel bad for [Hardy] though. It’s tough.”

Vincent doesn’t worry that Hardy’s loss will lessen the chance of the rematch happening, or put a dimmer on it. She just wants what she was promised.

Hardy’s contract with Bellator allows her to box, so it could still happen. Her boxing promoter Lou DiBella was at the arena to watch her fight, and Vincent approached him, too. DiBella laughed and told her he didn’t want any trouble on fight night. But then, she says, he told her that the fight would eventually get made.

Vincent is concerned that she’s running out of time. She’s 38 years old, and Hardy may be out for a while as she recovers. If she has to force movement by screaming in Hardy’s face, she will. If she has to crash a weigh-in, that’s fine, too. But will she chase Hardy into a cage if that’s the only route to revenge? Vincent isn’t well versed in the sport, although she counts Bellator star Brennan Ward as one of her oldest friends. It’s not her preferred method, but if she has to...

“If she want to fight me in the cage, first she’s got to give me what she f--king owes me,” she said. “And then we’ll do it again, and I’ll knock her clear the f--k out in four-ounce gloves. I’ll put her right to sleep. They gotta come to me first and do me right, then I’ll do this over here if that’s what people want to see.”