When life throws you lemons, do whatever the hell you want with them. Make lemonade? Sure. Throw them back? That’s another option. Taking one upside the head might even be the masochistic approach. Just don’t blame anyone else for the outcome. That’s what life is all about.
Nobody can ever fault Heather Hardy for all of the lemons life has thrown her way. From her childhood well into her adult life, she has put up with a lot of crap, but she always picks herself up, dusts herself off, and goes back for more.
Most people know Hardy as the undefeated pro boxer who entered the world of MMA in 2017. She scored a win in her pro debut, showed up for a very provocative weigh-in appearance for her second fight, and ended up a bloody mess by year’s end. Some critics felt 2017 served as the rise and fall of Hardy. That’s the layperson’s Hardy, though, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Hardy is a divorced single mother who had a rough time growing up. She channeled that into her successful boxing career. A loss in the ring or the cage, however, was never a concern.
“Not every loss is a loss,” Hardy told Combat Press. “I know that sounds kind of cliché. I never defined myself as an undefeated fighter. I mean, I never got beat before in professional boxing, but I used to lose all the time in the amateurs. I know what it’s like to lose in life. I was winning at losing in life for the longest time. It wasn’t the first time I faced adversity. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. It wasn’t the first time I got knocked on my ass. It didn’t affect me the way a lot of people thought it might.
“I’ve been homeless before. I’ve been living in the gym with my daughter stuck in my cousin’s house in Long Island. Those are the times that it’s hard to bounce back, because you’re losing at life. I lose a fight — you know, a little broken nose, a little blood — and I’m right back at it.”
Hardy actually did suffer a broken nose courtesy of opponent Kristina Williams in her last fight at Bellator 185 in October. That’s small potatoes for a professional boxer who is undefeated in 21 outings. Believe it or not, boxers get hit in the nose a lot. Of course, this one was due to a kick, which is why Hardy was immediately back in the gym training with Rob Constance at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan, N.Y. She also continued her boxing training at Gleason’s Gym. Hardy is getting better everywhere. A lot was learned in her last loss.
“Every fight has a takeaway, whether it is a win or a loss,” Hardy explained. “You try to improve on some things that you didn’t do well before. I think the biggest takeaway from this one is that boxing isn’t going to solve every problem. If my boxing doesn’t work, I’m going to need something else. I need to be able to call on other things, and that’s what we went back to the drawing board with. It’s really about problem-solving.
“There’s always room for improvement. I still don’t feel like I’m great at boxing yet. I’m real good at it, but I’m certainly not the best. Even my boxing itself has tons of room for improvement. Every day is really just about learning how to do something better. There is just so much information when it comes to MMA — so many tricks, so many takedowns, so many chokes, so many locks, so many combinations. It’s just a matter of having a good coach that says let’s work on these 10 things and figure out how to make a nice story with these.”
Last year was more of a learning experience, in general, for Hardy than just a foray into the world of MMA. She understands that this is not boxing, but as she has done with everything in life, she jumped in feet first and took it in stride.
“It’s really hard,” Hardy admitted. “My Invicta fight fell through, and Bellator offered me the fight [against Alice Yauger] at Madison Square Garden, and I had two months to train and get caught up on disciplines that I had never trained before. It was really just trying to figure out how I can use my boxing and get it to problem-solve for all of the things I don’t know how to do.
“It worked out well in my first MMA fight, but not so well in my second one. My most recent camp has been about adding tools to the toolbox and being able to call on different things when my boxing doesn’t get me out of trouble.”
It is a bit of an understatement to say that MMA is “hard,” but Hardy completely understands this fact. It’s not exactly what U.S. Senator John McCain once referred to as “human cockfighting,” but there are so many variables and so many ways to win that it’s less of a science than some other combat sports. It’s more situational.
“I feel mean,” Hardy said. “Another takeaway from my last fight is that boxing is just like a sport. You go in, you score points, you try to make the person miss, and it’s hit-but-don’t-get-hit. I never really went into a boxing match with the kind of fire like, ‘I want to hurt you.’ I learned in my last fight that you need to have that mentality [in MMA]. I don’t just want to jab you in the face and touch you and make you think. I need to hit you and make you not want to come anywhere near me. This camp was really about bringing out a mean Heather. I don’t want to score points. I want to hurt you.”
On Friday, Feb. 16, Hardy will be back in action at Bellator 194. She faces fellow boxer Ana Julaton in an MMA bout. In a strange turn of events, the two women decided to face each other first in the Bellator cage and then in a boxing ring at a time that has yet to be determined. Due to the nature of MMA with injuries and medical clearance through athletic commissions, it wouldn’t make sense to schedule a boxing match now. It is definitely in the stars, though.
“It’s kind of funny,” Hardy explained. “The day before my last weigh-in — Ana and I had a fight on the same card — and I was walking through the back room to sign all my papers and go back to bed, and one guy stopped me and said he just did an interview with Ana and would love to get my counter to it. She said something like I can run, but I can’t hide. And I just went off.
“I was like, ‘Who the fuck is she? I haven’t heard this girl’s name in eight years, and I’m running from her?’ So, I started this shit storm and said I wanted to fight her next. It just kind of happened that way. Because we both have boxing promoters also, we had to get our boxing promoters involved, and we agreed to do this in the ring, too. It makes it a little bit more exciting.”
At age 37, Julaton is around the same age as Hardy. Julaton has a 14-4-1 pro boxing record and currently stands at 2-3 as a pro mixed martial artist. She, like Hardy, lost her fight at Bellator 185. Now, Julaton is looking to get back to .500. Hardy didn’t understand, or appreciate, the call-out, but she is happy to oblige. The fight is part of the main card that airs live on the Paramount Network.
Hardy’s goals for 2018 are quite simple. She wants to showcase her new skills, continue her boxing career, and hopefully get her daughter into a decent high school, which, frankly, has been a heavier weight to tow than any broken nose.
“We’re picking high schools for next year,” said the fighting mom. “The last three months have just been applications and anxiety — where’s she going to go? In New York City, it’s not like most places, where you have zoned schools and you just go to the school in your zone. In the city, it’s a little bit trickier than that. If you’re not zoned for a good public school, then you’re in trouble and you’re going to end up paying a whole ton of money. We’ve got about another month of anxiety until we find out.”
While Hardy and her daughter are taking the team approach to finding a good school, don’t expect the teenager to be in the gym training anytime soon.
“She doesn’t want to train,” Hardy said. “No kids are interested in what their parents are into. She doesn’t think I’m cool. She doesn’t think it’s fun. It’s just mama’s job. I ain’t passin’ this torch.”
Fair enough. However, Hardy does plan on fighting, and quite a bit. Even entering the MMA cage in her mid-30s, she has already done a great job of building her brand and establishing a name for herself as a crossover fighter. She doesn’t view her loss as a setback at all, and she looks forward to showing everyone that nobody can keep Hardy down.
“I’d like everybody to see the bounce back,” she said. “There’s a ton of negative shit out there. I’ve read some people say there’s no way I’m ever going to come back from that fight. I’m getting compared to Ronda Rousey and that knockout by Holly Holm. This is a story of resilience, right? I did get knocked down, and it wasn’t my brightest hour, but I sure did come back, and it’s not going to affect how I fight.”