Veronica Hardy, formerly known as Veronica Macedo, is as high as a +360 underdog against Juliana Miller in betting odds for their UFC 286 opener on Saturday. Miller is The Ultimate Fighter 30 winner and a promising prospect.
Hardy can understand why there isn’t much faith in her. A three-year layoff, combined with a 1-3 record in her previous four outings, doesn’t inspire investment.
“Honestly, if I was watching it from the outside in, I don’t think I would say I would pick myself in this fight, right?” Hardy said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. It’s like, ‘Oh, she’s been out three years. She’s not had great results in the UFC. She tends to do crazy things and gets herself in trouble,’ you know, based on that, I understand.
“It’s not like I’m upset about it. I just don’t think that’s gonna be the case because, yeah, it’s been three years. But what have I done in these three years to, to change that thing? And for that not to be what is going to happen. So let them think what they want. My opinion, we’ll see on Saturday.”
After a decision loss to Bea Malecki at UFC Brasilia, Hardy stepped away from the sport after suffering multiple concussions (Malecki would be sidelined by her own concussion issues in her next UFC fight). The man whose last name she took, former UFC fighter and commentator Dan Hardy, convinced her to reexamine the meaning of her layoff.
“I wasn’t feeling that great, and I kept trying to push past it, and it just made it worse,” she said. “So it took about the first six months of me to stop training, which was pretty difficult, because I kept wanting to be like, ‘Maybe if a fight comes up, I can take it on short notice and I can do it.’ I had to have Dan go, ‘Listen, stop, you need to slow down, you need to stop and this is not a bad thing. This is a great thing. Now you get to learn and not go back in there with doing the same mistakes, like learn from it, take this time that it will eventually make you better.’
“I’ve always felt like I’ve been running out of time. I’m like athletes should be at their peak at 21, and if I’m not doing that, then I’m behind, and now I look back, and I wish I would have done this sooner.”
At 27, Hardy said she’s got a better sense of who she is as a fighter and what she’s capable of. Until she moved to the U.K. to be with her now-husband, she said she struggled to apply all of her learning.
“Before, I would go in with the mentality of, ‘I’m in here for a fight,’ and I’ve learned things around the world where I’ve been living, and it just hasn’t worked out for me, because I haven’t had a plan, and it’s been very frustrating because I feel like I’ve trained so hard and I’m like, ‘What do I have to do? I don’t understand,’ and to be able to have this three years with Dan, that is an encyclopedia of martial arts, and for him to be like, ‘I understand what you’re feeling in this situation, look at this fight, or look at this fight, look at what he did here and how you can apply that,’ And just things started to, to make a lot more sense.
“So even though it’s been three years, I feel like for the first time, I understand what my role is in there.”
When it comes to environment, Veronica Hardy said the fighter hotel for The O2 can’t get much better; the newlyweds have stayed there several times for Dan’s commentary work with Cage Warriors. The couple visualize the work they’ll do together.
For many, the idea of a significant other in their corner would be distracting. For Veronica, it’s a source of strength as she moves closer to her ideal form.
“To have Dan in the corner, you feel like you can take on the world,” she said. “I mean, when it goes down, he’s crazy. It just feels amazing, especially in England, especially in a place that I came originally to do MMA and have him. It’s incredible. I can’t wait. I’ve thought about what it has felt like, but I just think when I get there it won’t even come close to the feeling I’ll have.”