(Photo Credit; Dan Hardy giving the shirt off of his back to a fan, UFC 100 Fan Expo, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.)
Posted: by T.F.M. Staff / Written: by N. Brooks. April 3, 2011.
With the costs of being a sports fan ever increasing, fanatics worldwide scour their athletic of choice looking for that one athlete or team to invest their passion. I recently read a blog via twitter (written by @AndreaJ73) entitled “The Cut” which described one fan’s opinion of UFC Welterweight Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy and issues related to his recent loss to fellow UFC Welterweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. I found the literature to be quite compelling and inspiring. I do not know the author nor do I have any affiliation but reading the article inspired me to write my own related article. The reason being, my athletic of choice is Mixed Martial Arts and my fanatic passion is invested into several MMA fighters but none more than Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy. Here’s a quick glimpse into why:
My routine was simple, an MMA event would be announced and I would log onto that particular promotions website to research who was fighting who and if I was unfamiliar with a fighter, I would do some extended research on that saidfighter’s background. Back in early 2009, UFC 95 was announced and of course I logged onto the UFC’s website to look into the event further. Upon my internet travels I stumbled upon the Dan Hardy vs. Rory Markham fight. I knew who Rory Markham was from his IFL days but I had no clue who Dan Hardy was so I clicked onto his profile to investigate further. That is when I was first exposed to “The Mohawk.” My initial thought was “Who the hell is this guy and who the hell does he think he is?” I read a little into his bio and discovered that Dan Hardy was British. At that time, British fighters had yet to make a strong presence in North American MMA. Yes, Michael Bisping had won The Ultimate Fighter but at that time British fighters were still considered second tier. Where I live, if you’re going sport a 3 inch high red Mohawk and call yourself a fighter, you better be bad as hell or the general public will make your life a living hell in various physical and physiological ways. You combine all of these aspects and I quickly came to the uneducated conclusion that I was probably not a fan of Dan Hardy.
UFC 95 took place February 21th, 2009 and as always I was quite excited to see the night’s festivities. I was exceedingly eager to see what this Dan Hardy character had to offer. To get such a prime spot within the event after only one fight in the UFC only heightened my suspicions of this entity known as “The Outlaw.” Dan entered the cage wearing a black bandana over the lower half of his face and I soon realized that Hardy’s profile picture on the UFC’s website did not do his hairstyle of choice justice. During Dan’s entrance to the cage was the first time the thought of his legitimacy crossed my mind. I remember thinking “Okay, this dude might have something here…” Just over a minute into the fight I officially became a fan of Dan Hardy when he knocked out Rory Markham with an impressive right hook. His post fight interview with Joe Rogan further solidified my fanatic status. “No punching power, eh?” Dan exclaimed. Little did I know at that time that Dan Hardy would eventually become my friend.
April 18th, 2009 I decided to take the biggest gamble of my life and follow a dream. With (my last) $200.00 and some ridiculous good fortune and an ocean full of luck, The Fight Mafia brand was created. Without going into details, I now owned a fledgling apparel brand that I operated out of an 8 x 10 space in my basement and I started receiving emails and calls from all over the world from people associated with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. One particular email I received was from UFC Welterweight Dan Hardy’s management at the time. I was flabbergasted, here was someone just months prior I was researching on the internet and now I was getting an email on his behalf. It was quite surreal. Dan’s management had asked me if I was interested in becoming Dan’s official entrance bandana sponsor. I could not have been more excited to say “YES.” Dan was in the process of picking a fight with Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis and I knew this fight was going to get a lot of attention. One thing I didn’t know or understand was why me? Out of all the companies in the world, why was I chosen to produce arguably the second most notorious thing (his entrance bandana) about Dan Hardy? At the time I was just a guy who made one shirt in his basement and got lucky and that one shirt ended up getting shown on television. That is all I was, a guy in his basement, but of course I jumped at the opportunity. Doing the best I could at the time I quickly designed a bandana for Dan’s fight against Marcus Davis at UFC 99. For those who are urbanely challenged, that means Dan Hardy is quite awesome.
Fight night was one that I will never forget, many of my closest friends and family all gathered at my house to take in a great night of Mixed Martial Arts. We all of course were wearing our new Dan Hardy bandanas eagerly anticipating their appearance on the UFC broadcast. Dan’s entrance to the cage at UFC 99 was only the second time my brand had been featured on television and it still was a huge deal for me. Please remember, at the time I was just a fan in his basement that made one shirt and one bandana. Of course Dan put the stomp on Mr. Davis and won a close 3 round decision victory. The “Hardy Party Tour” was in full effect that night and I donated a bandana to all its members in Cologne, Germany that night. There aren’t too many things crazier than a group of Dan Hardy fans after a Hardy victory, which was very apparent in the photos that were sent to me from some of the “Hardy Party Tour” members. Big shout-out to the “Hardy Party Tour!” With the victory Dan Hardy was well on his way to becoming a mega superstar in the UFC.
In July of 2009, after only 3 months of operation I decided to participate my fledgling brand in the UFC’s first ever Fan Expo which was aligned with UFC 100 in Las Vegas. I asked Dan if he was interested in appearing at my booth to give fans an opportunity for autographs and photos. Dan was more than happy to oblige and actually drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with his lovely girlfriend Elizabeth. I had never met Dan before and I must admit I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how his brash British punk rock persona would mesh with my Canadian ghetto fabulous just a black guy inexperienced unprofessionalism. To my surprise, he couldn’t have been nicer. During the 2 day event, I often wondered how someone so badass and so brash to his opponents could be so genuine and gentle with his fans. It was refreshing to witness. Dan appeared for hours in our booth on both days of the event and went over and above what was expected. At one point he actually took the shirt off of his back and gave his shirt to a fan because we had ran out of the size of shirt that was requested. I will never forget that for as long as I live and I am sure that particular fan won’t either. At that time is when Dan Hardy officially became my friend. To give the shirt off of his back on my behalf and to stand there shirtless until we got him another is a true testament of his character. Please remember, I was still just a guy in his basement and Dan Hardy was a global superstar. It was surreal.
UFC 105 took place November 14th, 2009 and once again Dan allowed me to work with him to produce his entrance bandana for his fight against Mike "Quick" Swick. (To be continued...)