Posted: by T.F.M. Staff / Written: by N. Brooks. April 3, 2011.
I was in somewhat regular contact with Dan throughout his training camp making sure everything was positive and moving forward progressively. Dan actually was training for the GSP fight with a lot of personal weight on his shoulders making things at times very difficult. Dan is a strong individual and he deserves all the success he has achieved. Through emails and via facebook, I also kept in contact with Dan’s girlfriend Elizabeth who was designing the UFC 111 bandana. Elizabeth is a cool ass chick with incredible design talent. She actually is a professional graphic designer and I was eager to see what a pro could produce. When she emailed me the final design I was flabbergasted. It was very similar to the UFC 105 design but this time there were teeth that had blood dripping from the tips and it was very fittingly aggressive. I think Dan wanted to send a message this time, that in this fight for the title, he was going for blood!
UFC 111 took place March 27th, 2010 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. My girlfriend and I drove up to New Jersey for the event a few days early as we wanted to spend some time in New York and of course this event was like no other, this time our friend Dan Hardy was fighting for the title. After spending a few days in NYC, the day of the weigh-ins (the day before the fight) vastly approached and Dan was of course continuing his weight-cut process. Dan text-messaged my cell phone the morning of the weigh-ins to meet him in the gym next to the hotel lobby. Little did I know at that time that there were actually two gyms next to the hotel lobby? So I went into the gym next to the hotel lobby as Dan requested and I couldn’t find him. I figured he must be in the sauna cutting weight so I went into the change room area and into the sauna and there I saw sprawled out on the sauna bench, was a naked GSP and his team. I remember thinking to myself “Hmmm, there’s GSP!” Fan or no fan, GSP is a huge star, the biggest in the sport and at that moment I couldn’t believe what had transpired. Was Dan playing a prank on me? I acted like I was just checking out the facilities and went and sat on a bench in the change room and once again texted Dan. GSP and his team came out of the sauna and his staff wrapped him in towels and laid him on the bench next to me. I had to get out of there as this was starting get to be a little too much. And for all you ladies out there with GSP posters on your wall including my sister, please don’t even ask me!
I went back out to the hotel lobby area where my girlfriend was sitting and at that time I once again ran into some of my new British friends (Chris, Ricky, Andy, Dean, and company, etc.) that I had met at earlier UFC events. I gave them all bandanas as they regularly help hand out bandanas to fellow Dan Hardy fans. Thankfully, Dan just happened to walk by at the time and he gestured for me to come with him while he goes and checks his weight. I said to him, “Where were you, you had me in the sauna with GSP?” He said in the gym beside the hotel lobby and that is when I discovered that there were two gyms beside the hotel lobby. Dan asked me how GSP looked and I replied “Like shit!” After checking his weight on the scales, Dan was 2 pounds away from making the 170 pound weight class limit so he decided he would kick around a soccer ball in order to lose the last 2 pounds. I then found out that it is true, all English people can play soccer and it was also discovered after me only kicking the soccer ball a few times, Canadians cannot. Anyways, after playing a little soccer, we went up to Dan’s hotel room in which he had turned into a sweltering sauna by turning up the heat as high as it could go and began watching cartoons. I looked at Dan and asked why cartoons? He replied, “I loved this shit mate.” Soon after I left him to be with his team and coaches and I too needed some time to decompress. Remember, I am still just a fan, could you imagine how lucky I felt to experience this much behind the scenes footage?
Later that day, on my way to the weigh-in venue I received a phone call from the UFC and it was not good news. They instructed me that they had implemented a new policy for sponsors that involved sponsors paying the UFC a yearly fee. I had heard and read rumors of the new policy but no one had contacted me with concrete documentation until this phone call. To make a long story short, the UFC told me that I had to pay “X” amount of dollars by 4:00pm the next day in order for Dan to be able to wear my bandana for his entrance to the cage. When I say “X” amount of dollars, I mean a successful individuals yearly salary. I told the UFC representative that this was probably not possible due to a variety of reasons that a normal person would have not being able to produce that amount of money in less than a day. The UFC representative was very unapologetic. I was at a loss for words as why nobody contacted me about this until the day before the fight. Even if I could pay the fee, nobody in their right mind would ever fork over that amount of money without a contract or a signed detailed document on what the fee entailed. I was extremely disappointed and if you saw the fight you might have noticed that Dan’s entrance bandana said Hayabusa instead of The Fight Mafia. We had to use black marker to cover up The Fight Mafia and place a Hayabusa sticker over the wording to appease the UFC’s new policy. Although disappointed that my brand would no longer be featured at/in the event, when I looked at the big picture, this was a very small factor. I got into this business to do something that I loved to do on a whim. My goal was not to only have a passion but to be my passion and that for surely I am and forever will be therefore it helped soften the blow. So to Round 5 Collectibles, your limited edition Dan Hardy action figure is fantastic but not completely anatomically correct and to Hayabusa, I never did get your thank-you card (please do not read into that wrongly, it’s a joke, it’s truly all good)…
The day of the fight had finally arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited. Shortly before the event doors opened I quickly did a radio show called MMA Sucka Radio from my hotel room. That was something very new for me as normally before an event I am still slangin' Fight Mafia gear out of the trunk of my car. Anyways, I did the radio show and pimped Dan Hardy as the UFC’s new welterweight champion as much as I could and then headed to Dan’s room to give him my routine pre- fight speech/words of encouragement. When I got to his hotel room, the mood was quite different from what I had experienced in the past. The room was dark and everyone was quiet and somber. Dan was in his bed, Mohawk freshly shaved and he was texting or playing games on his cell phone. It was a very quiet but intense scene. Dan looked extremely focused and wasn’t what I would call himself. No smiling, no jokes, no cartoons, it was actually quite uncomfortable. It was so intense in the room that it felt like at any moment the walls could catch fire. I almost didn’t want to say anything but I felt I had to. I always feel like I have to because Dan to me is not just my favorite MMA fighter, he’s my homeboy (British punk rockers generally are not anybody’s homeboy, but he’s my homeboy). My speech was simple, I told Dan that to beat GSP you would literally have to try and kill him. He’s the best in the world and it was going to take more than anything you have ever put forth in the past. It was going to take more than skill and a great game-plan, it was going to take raw bloody aggression. I told him to try and kill that man across the cage from him and let the rules of the sport and the referee save his life and you’ll walk out of that arena with the belt around your waist. (To be continued…)