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Hardy returns to Nottingham to fight on home soil

The Canadian Press

9/25/2012 9:05:51 PM

It's not usual for fighters to hit the beach for a relaxing vacation after a gruelling training camp and bout. But Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy isn't your usual fighter.

"I was living in a hut on the Amazon for two weeks," Hardy said of his holiday choice this summer. "Completely vegan diet. Meditating and just trying to find a bit of peace."

The 30-year-old English welterweight with the mohawk said he found what he was looking for.

"It was just what I needed."

Hardy, who lives in Las Vegas these days, returns to his Nottingham home when he takes on Amir Sadollah in the co-main event of a televised UFC card Saturday.

Dutch heavyweight Stefan (Skyscraper) Struve (28-5) faces Stipe Miocic (9-0) in the main event at the Capital FM Arena.

Hardy (24-10 with one no contest) left the bright lights of Las Vegas for Peru in the wake of his May 26 knockout of Duane (Bang) Ludwig at UFC 146 before some 15,000 high-rollers and others at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

A week later, Hardy was eating rice and beans in his hut at the Hummingbird Retreat Center near Iquitos, listening to the birds in the jungle outside.

"I got a lot of thinking time and reading time," Hardy said. "It was nice, it was peaceful."

He went with a friend but they had their own huts, so they went their separate ways.

Ironically, Hardy found himself playing tourist guide in Las Vegas the week he got back when his little sister came to visit. He did everything from walk the Strip to show her the giant casinos that line it.

"To be honest, the whole week I was thinking it would be really nice to back in Peru now where there's peace and quiet and not loads of drunk people throwing money around," he recalled.

"Vegas is an interesting place. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to spend time here and experience this culture but I don't fit in very well here."

No stranger to travel -- Hardy used the Internet to find a suitable place to train with Shaolin monks in China in 2002 -- the fighter turned to his computer again to find his Amazon retreat.

"It's amazing what you can find on Google," he said with a laugh.

Hardy wasn't missing much on his vacation, other than his fiancee. He doesn't drink or party, so the bright lights aren't much of a draw.

"Being away from everything on my own was the treat for myself that I needed really," he explained. "The whole fast-paced lifestyle around the buildup to the fight and interviews and fans and everything, it's a very intense atmosphere. There's a lot going on, a lot to take in.

"So the thing I really felt that I needed was to be able to remove myself from that and just kind of breathe easy for a little while. Just take in what had happened and appreciate the work I'd put in and the fact that it had paid off. So when I came back, I'd reassessed where I was at and I was ready to get straight back to work.

"I felt the best I've ever felt when I got back because my diet had been good and my weight stayed down."

Hardy, who can weigh in no more than 171 to fight at welterweight, says he hasn't gone above 190 since the Ludwig win. Often he can balloon to 210 within three or four weeks of a fight.

Hardy continues to train with Frank Mir's camp in Vegas. The one change he has made is to add two 90-minute yoga sessions a week to maintain flexibility -- and help his mind and body recover.

"I felt a little beat up after the last training camp," he said. "Two sessions a day, every day, every session beating me down and wearing me down a little."

He says the yoga has helped his body recover. He is sleeping better and has been injury-free in the leadup to Saturday's fight.

He's cut back on animal protein and upped his intake of fruit and vegetables.

"I'm finding my craving for cookies, which was my problem initially, has just gone. I have no interest in it now," he said.

These days Hardy allows himself one treat a week -- sushi.

The Ludwig win was sorely needed.

While a popular fighter in the UFC, Hardy had lost four straight -- albeit to top fighters in champion Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle.

Prior to that he had won four straight to open his UFC account, fighting and talking his way to the top of the 170-pound contenders' ranks.

As a result of the subsequent losses, Hardy took a long look at his fight regimen and moved to Las Vegas full-time last year to up the ante.

The Brit is no stranger to Saturday's venue. He can see it from his flat in Nottingham and used to go there most weeks during hockey season to see friends on the Nottingham Panthers play.

He's also seen concerts and boxing matches there although has never fought in it himself.

Sadollah, 32, has gone 5-3 since winning Season 7 of "The Ultimate Fighter." A former surgical technician, he had no pro fights before the reality TV show.

Sadollah bounced back from an August 2011 loss to Ludwig by winning a split decision over Jorge Lopez in May.

"I think it's a good matchup for both of us," said Hardy. "We both come to fight and neither of us is scared to mix it up.

"He's a tough guy, a very well-rounded guy. He's very durable. You can't take him lightly at any point in the fight because he's always got that ability to turn the fight around."

Sadollah's willingness to trade blows was especially attractive to Hardy in that he wants to put on a show for his hometown crowd.

While Hardy speaks of Sadollah with respect, he can't help but wonder why his opponent opted to train with Ludwig in advance of the fight.

"I'm not sure how that works for your confidence -- working with someone that's just been knocked out by your opponent," he said. "But to each their own, I guess."

It marks Hardy's first fight in Nottingham since April 2008 when he beat Chad Reiner in Cage Warriors action at a smaller venue. That was 10 fights ago.

He has never lost in his home town, winning titles on three different circuits there.

"This one obviously is going to be the icing on the cake for me when he hits the canvas," Hardy added.

Away from the cage, Hardy likes music -- he recorded a special version of his one-time entrance song "England Belongs to Me" with the band Cock Sparrer -- reading, writing and art. His post-fighting plans include going to university.

In May, he received an animal welfare activism award from a pet orphanage in Dallas for his work in rescuing and fostering cats. He has also taken aim at the likes of Matt Hughes for the UFC Hall of Famer's love for recreational hunting.