Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy has been one of the most exciting fighters to watch perform in the cage, but unfortunately he’s been forced to take an extended break from the sport due to being diagnosed with a rare heart disorder named, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in 2013. The 35-year-old opted against undergoing treatment to relieve the heart condition due to the fact that he hasn’t experienced any kind of negative effects. UFC officials then made the decision not to clear him for competition as long as the condition remains present. Four years later Hardy has expressed the itch to return to the cage at some point for one last hurrah during a Q and A in Singapore in June. If he is able to gain clearance, who should he fight in his long awaited return?
Hardy made it clear that he will only fight under the UFC banner and has always planned on ending his career there and while he has efortlessly transitioned into the role of commentator, he is still somewhat of a target for active UFC competitors. At least to Mickey Gall he is. Gall took the microphone to call the “Outlaw” out following his win over Sage Northcutt last December. The problem is that Hardy stated that he isn’t particularly interested in fighting someone who is still developing. He said he’d rather fight a veteran and one who happens to compete in the talent rich lightweight division as he’s ruled out competing at welterweight. There’s one potential dance partner who has made it known that he simply loves to fight early and often against anyone and everyone.
That man is none other than Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who is now competing comfortably at 170 lbs as of late, but he hasn’t ruled out a return to the lightweight division if the right opportunity presents itself. A chance to welcome back Nottingham, England’s rugged martial artist could be enticing enough for Cerrone to return to his previous division. The bout would likely turn into a stand up war that could end with somebody on the wrong side of a knockout. Should Cerrone opt against making the cut to 155 lbs, alternative opponents still remain.
If you’re talking knockouts, look no further than Justin Gaethje who doesn’t know what the word, quit means and who is always willing to fight anyone the UFC puts in front of him. Hardy won’t have any difficulty motivating himself against a man who will push the action from the first bell and move forward with little regard for his opponents’ offense. Hardy would get every opportunity to land some vicious left hooks that could possibly turn “The Highlght’s” lights out. What more could fans ask for?
Michael Johnson is probably recognized more as the man lightweight competitors need to beat in order to get their name in the title mix, but he is certainly no slouch at the age of 31. Johnson’s hands are lightning quick and have presented problems for his opposition even in defeat. Johnson has shown a tendency for ditching the game plan in favor of swinging for the fences, which could make for fireworks against “The Outlaw.” Johnson is currently in need of a bounce back win while Hardy is looking for a formidable opponent who he could use as a stepping stone to ride off into the sunset on his own terms.
Another potential opponent also happens to be known for fighting on his own terms, in fact as of today, he’s still contemplating continuing his career in MMA. “Raging” Al Iaquinta is one of the standouts at Ray Longo and Matt Serra’s Long Island gym and he is coming off his most impressive performance; a knockout win over Diego Sanchez in under two minutes in April. Iaquinta was inactive for two years prior to his win over “The Nightmare,” but it appears he has been further developing his game while on the sidelines. Hardy is also likely to continue keeping his weapons sharp if he intends on returning to competition soon.
Another potential dark horse for Hardy not featured in the top 15 is James Vick, who is in dire need of some exposure and could benefit from fighting a UK star. The potential match up might also favor Hardy, on paper at least. A winnable fight could be what he is searching for and he can very well find it in “The Texecutioner.” Only time will tell whether Hardy undergoes the procedure necessary to be cleared by UFC’s medical staff. Considering his age, we can expect him to make the move sooner rather than later. We can also expect Hardy to go out on his shield.