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Heather Hardy: I will f***ing bounce back from defeat

Michael Woods speaks with boxer/MMA fighter Heather Hardy about suffering her first professional loss in combat sports.

MMA: Bellator 185-Uncasville-Williams vs Hardy Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

Fighter Heather Hardy spoke for the first time to press about her first loss as a professional fighter, which occured last Friday in Connecticut at Bellator 185, broadcast on Spike.

The Brooklyn-based single mom held a 20-0 record in the boxing ring and a 1-0 mark as a mixed martial artist, after winning her MMA debut in June. On Friday, Hardy, age 35, was matched with a taller foe, Kristina Williams, who had a legs advantage over her. In round two, a round house left leg kick from Williams landed on Hardy, mashing her nose and opening a faucet of blood. The ref asked the cage doc to take a look, and the doc, seeing cuts and a re-shaped nose, called for a halt to the scrap.

So, how is Hardy doing? How is her face, and her psyched? We asked, on the Everlast podcast “TALKBOX.”

“I have fractures on both sides of my nose,” Hardy said. “So that means two black eyes,” she continued, giggling.

“It was from a roundhouse kick, the ‘kick heard round the world.’ That kick broke my nose. Earlier in the first round, I had taken an elbow, which sliced my nose. That was the end of the first round. When you saw the blood first start falling, that was from the elbow, and I have nine stitches there. Other than that, I’m not experiencing any pain, I’m not hurting, I am totally fine. I physically look like trash. I feel OK.”

Hardy went to the doctor Tuesday and “it’s no brain trauma.” The impact was shin to nose, but no bone went shifting toward her brain. “A clean shatter,” was how she described it. She doesn’t know if surgery will be called for, and needs to wait a bit to see how healing goes.

We chatted about her fighting future. “Yeah, I’m actually really anxious to get back in there,” she stated. The doc said no contact for six weeks, but “the doctor told me once I let this heal, six weeks from now, it’ll take a kick just as hard to break it again.”

She helped put the loss in perspective for her multitude of fans, many of whom looked up to her for resilience on the way to this point, and her stubbornness at not letting barriers stop her.

“I made no secret, I’m still learning,” Hardy said. “I was still learning before this fight, and even if I walked out victorious, I would still be learning after this fight” and she will be back in the gym ASAP to continue her education.

“I faced a really experienced kicking striker. The coaches heard the morning of the fight she’s a black belt in tae kwon do. We were like, OK, let’s factor that in,” she said, chuckling.

She doesn’t like to watch video of opponents before, because she’d find herself obsessing about that person, likes to concentrate on her side of the street. She lauded Williams and her team for good scouting, knowing that an opening could be there when she slipped a jab and threw an overhand right. “I did just that with the overhand right, dipped in a little too low and the rest is history.”

In round one, Hardy said, she felt “she was more than I expected.” The two-sport athlete was going to ride one of the kicks and then throw combos inside. She did work in her year-long MMA cram on getting loose when someone tried to grab her, but not in the Williams style. Her foe was and is a smooth operator, let’s be clear. “The way she carried herself in that cage is really admirable,” Hardy said.

And let’s take a second to note the class and dignity Hardy is showing in defeat; this is what I spoke of when I said her fans revere her for her character as much or more than her fighting skills. And what’s next?

“I do really feel like kind of my home is in MMA, because I do have that warrior mentality where I won’t quit, I won’t give up. For this fight, I didn’t have enough tools in my tool box. We got to the point where I was just winging my fucking toolbox at this girl! I didn’t have anything in there, but I was pulling out tricks, trying whatever I could.”

She will keep learning and just needs more time to learn more, so the toolbox is fuller. “Do I think I will get back in the cage in December? No, I need some time to heal my face. The last thing I want to do is jump in too soon, and be gun shy. When I come out in a boxing match, the two MMA fights, we come out guns blazing, no matter what. And I want to make sure I’m physically ready to do that again.”

One subject that we didn’t touch on but that has been sticking in my brain is how this fight showed the difference in methodology in how MMA handles a prospect and how boxing does.

In boxing, Hardy’s run-up, since turning pro in 2012, was incremental and measured. She faced different styles on the way up the ladder, sure, but there was a focused drive to build her skill set, her confidence, her profile and her momentum. On the MMA side, the Bellator people put her in with a foe who, in retrospect, she was ill suited to deal with, with such a lengthy grounding in a discipline Hardy hadn’t studied.

I know this community has a strong base which leaves comments and discusses issues, perhaps some of you guys could weigh in here. I guess it’s good for fans to be able to know that most of the fights are 50-50 on paper coming in, in MMA. But are fighters best served by that? And is the sport, because we have to assume some future star arcs are short-circuited by early career defeats?

Anyway, it became clear that Hardy won’t be spending much if any time mulling this matter. She sounded clear minded and like she’s dealing with the defeat as well as could be.

“The positive press really made me feel better than the negative press. The negative press really makes you feel like shit. That I was just kind of this ‘overhyped, blonde, red-lipsticked non-fighter’ and ‘ha, ha, she got exposed.’

“So the positive comments and feedback from the fans was really important to me. When I had initially said on social media I apologize for letting my fans down, I almost feel like a lot of my fans are just Heather Hardy fans. They were never really boxing fans. They were just fans of mine, because I represented all the bad, horrible things that have happened to themselves, but that you can be victorious.

“When you look at the shitty things in your own life and you realize you as a person maybe haven’t overcome them all, when people would tell me I inspire them, or I give them hope, or I make them want to do things, I felt like I let all of those people down. But, in hindsight, now that I look back, I feel like it’s the best thing that could have happened. Because in the past, I would have been this undefeated athlete telling people of my hardships in life, what I’ve overcome in life.

“Now people can see me, really watch me bounce back from this, watch me be resilient. I’m not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed or hiding my face. I can make light, I make jokes like everyone else about what happened last weekend. And I will fucking bounce back. Because I’ve done it a thousand times before.”

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