Bellator 222: Boxing champion Heather Hardy working hard to become fully committed to MMA
Fighting inside MSG for the second time, Hardy may have found a new home in MMA
Any athlete looking to focus on two competitive sports has a drive that not many can duplicate. For Heather Hardy, she is opening one door while another is already wide open for her. She is fully ready, however, to slam that open door shut to find out what she can do behind door number two. “The Heat” does know it is not an easy transition, especially since both boxing and MMA are two different animals.
“I boxed in October, and that’s already a long layover,” Hardy told Double G Sports during Bellator 222 media day. “I haven’t been inside the cage since February of last year. To go back to that training after an already intense boxing training for a world title, it felt like going from basketball to football.”
Brookyn’s Hardy (22-0, 1 NC boxing, 2-1 MMA) last fought in a boxing ring on October 27, beating Shelly Vincent for the WBO Women’s Featherweight Title. A holder of multiple titles, Hardy would have fought most likely earlier in the year if her original opponent didn’t retire. Ana Julaton lost to Hardy in an MMA bout at Bellator 194 in February and hung it up before they could have a rematch in a boxing ring. Hardy has had plenty of time to train since at Serra-Longo. Learning how to get back into MMA mode was initially a tough one for her.
“The beginning of camp, it felt like I was learning how to walk again,” Hardy went on to say. “It ended up being like riding a bike, though, and I figured it out. I’m comfortable now and I can’t wait to fight.”
Heather hopes the training pays off, as she is set to face Taylor Turner inside Madison Square Garden on June 14. Fighting out of Sevierville, Tennessee, Turner (3-5) is currently on a two-fight win streak. She knocked out Ashley Samples and submitted Anastasia Bruce at events for the Valor Fights promotion.
Some would say Turner doesn’t have the “sexiest” resume. Before winning two in a row she lost five straight. Heather is not looking into that. She knows that while her boxing resume speaks for itself, she is still a novice when it comes to MMA. Finding the right opponent hasn’t been the easiest process.
“It is extremely challenging,” Hardy stated when talking about opponents to face. “I can’t go up against a girl with 25 fights in MMA, right? I have 22 boxing fights. I’m a world champion, in that sport. I’m a baby in MMA, this is a new sport for me. You have to put me in with somebody where it is going to be somewhat competitive. I can’t face somebody with 2-3 fights like me. I do need that experience, but I certainly can’t face someone who has ten years on me. The balance of finding opponents has been a fine line, especially after jumping back in after all of this time.
Hardy’s mind this week will be all about MMA. After that? It may stay there. Knowing how boxing has been treating women within the sport all of these years, Hardy is done playing dirty politics. Speaking to Bloody Elbow, Hardy is enticed with the idea that Bellator is invested in her. While a dominant champion in boxing, rarely does she or any fighter get the recognition like the men do.
There is a lot to think about when talking about her two loves.
“The best thing for me can be argued on both sides,” Hardy continued. “I might be able to get one or two big purses in boxing. The question is: do I want to be used in that sense, or do I want to do something more personally driven? I’ve already won a world title in boxing, what else do I have to do over there?”
Hardy knows she may very well be stripped of her belt come August if she doesn’t defend it. Right now, she is purely focused on what MMA brings to the table. With family and friends ready to chant her name and a sport that can finally back her up, Heather Hardy is ready to put on a show that nobody will ever forget.
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