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Dan Hardy relishing television commentator’s job

Abu Dhabi: The UK’s former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Dan Hardy has resigned himself to the fact that he can never fight again due to a medical condition — but he’s not left the sport he loves the most.

After contemplating his future for nearly a year and a half after being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, a condition which causes the heart to beat abnormally fast, he finally decided to become a UFC commentator.

“It went well; it was a new challenge. I had a few slip-ups but that can happen when it is your first show. The crowd response was awesome and they were forgiving about the mistakes. Hopefully I can put up a good show in Abu Dhabi,” said Hardy during a telephone interview with Gulf News to promote UFC Fight Night 39, which takes place on April 11 at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

“I had been in the sport for long enough and seen it from up close. I didn’t need any training to do that and the presence of announcer John Gooden was also a big help,” he added.

The UFC wanted Hardy to undergo surgery before it could clear him to fight again, but he decided not to accept this offer.

“It was very frustrating and difficult to stay out of the game. But it also gave me sometime to take a backseat and think on what I should do. I was really upset because I was at the peak of my career and was getting into a rhythm where I felt I could put in my best performance,” revealed Hardy, who had 25 wins from 36 fights, including 12 by knockout.

Becoming a coach in the sport was not an option, he said.“I will coach some day but not now. It would be more frustrating to train someone and then think that it could have been me fighting out there. So it is not the right time to take up coaching but maybe at a later stage,” said Hardy, who continues to insist, had it not been for the American healthcare system, that he would have been still fighting.

“I think I had a different opinion after meeting the doctors in UK, who gave me clearance to fight again. The US cardiologists are moronic and direct about the situation. They were asking me to have surgery, something that I need not do. I feel healthy and I feel good,” Hardy said.

UFC has attained a status comparable to that of boxing in the 1970s and 80s, something which pleases Hardy greatly.

He said: “The sport has come a long way and yes, I would say that the sport has reached that status. It is very popular in the US now and people don’t look down upon the sport. There is so much television viewership and fan following now.”

Hardy believes events such as the forthcoming Abu Dhabi extravaganza can boost the popularity of the UFC in the UAE, too.

“UFC will be seeing a resurgence here and it has a lot to do with [the popularity of] wrestling and jiu-Jjtsu. It is a combat sport. With the set up already in place, I’m sure the popularity of the sport will grow in the coming years and someone will emerge from there. A very good jiu-jitsu player will definitely do well,” he said.

The UFC will return to Yas Island in April following a new two-year agreement with promoters Flash Entertainment.

The partnership will see at least five events staged in the region before 2016 and the event on April 11 is the second of six fight nights to be held in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region this year.

The UFC also plans to bring its reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter to the region in order to give local athletes the chance to compete for a UFC contract. UFC made its debut in Abu Dhabi in 2010.