It was no surprise when stories of Carlos Condit and Dan Hardy’s returns to the Octagon emerged within a few weeks of each other – they’re kindred spirits, after all. Both love to trade in the pocket and both can mean-mug a cameraman as nastily as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The rivals were mirror images again at UFC 120 in 2010 when they hurled the same backhand hook, Condit’s detonating first and finishing off the Englishman. However, the duo have since stuttered to a combined 6-10 from their following visits to the Octagon.
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As such, although Condit lost his last five bouts between January 2016 and December 2018, his striking coach Brandon Gibson said he expects the Albuquerque man to return in 2020, possibly against Matt Brown. A former WEC welterweight champion and a one-time UFC interim king, Condit wreaked havoc in his pomp, probing with a wicked range of kicks and spinning attacks owing to his unending gas tank. Eighteen years of competition might have taken their toll though and in the last six years, Condit has suffered ACL, meniscus and retina injuries.
Hardy emulates his former foe’s longevity and made his debut in 2004, progressing to become the first Brit to contest a UFC title when he was clinically outpointed by Georges St-Pierre in 2010. “The Outlaw” last fought in 2012 and although a year later he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – which can cause shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat – Hardy says he is cleared to fight, pointing to Anthony Pettis or Donald Cerrone as potential rivals.
A comeback for either is made more likely by their entertainment value. Think back to Condit’s highlight reel, which includes a come-from-behind KO over Rory MacDonald in 2010 and a flying knee that slammed into Dong Hyun Kim’s face in 2011. Look over Hardy’s career and you’ll discover his grudge match decision over Marcus Davis in 2009, plus a roundhouse hook and elbows which did for Duane Ludwig in 2012. Keep in mind, also, how the UFC has kept veterans such as Brown and Cerrone going.
Condit counts five fight of the night bonuses among his UFC honors but any return to competition will depend on how well his body holds up. In November 2019 the American suffered a detached retina, the same injury which almost scuppered Michael Bisping’s career. The Englishman spoke of scarring to the retina and immense pain so depending on the severity of Condit’s injury, “The Natural Born Killer” might have to undergo surgery.
Another roadblock is Condit’s track record in recent times. His plummet in form means he may have to act as a gatekeeper for younger fighters, and three defeats by submission in his last five bouts could prove a rare dent to his market status. That said, dropping decisions to Robbie Lawler and Neil Magny – the former in a neck-and-neck fight – and conceding submissions to Demian Maia, Alex Oliveira, and Michael Chiesa is hardly a shameful run.
What’s clear is that since defeating Thiago Alves in 2015 Condit has continued to challenge a murderer’s row at 170 pounds. When you dig further into those tapout losses, you’ll see that Condit absorbed only 20 strikes across the trio of setbacks. Sure, he’s had a rough bump with injuries but since the war with Lawler, Condit hasn’t shipped a wealth of punishment.
That might change once he makes another run at UFC glory. Like Hardy, Brown would take the fight to Condit. “The Immortal” prides himself on his aggressive, do-or-die tactics and would look to make inroads in the muay Thai flurries. Moreover, Brown could also view Condit as a benchmark to work out where he stands in his career after his crushing knockout defeat to Miguel Baeza in May. Other slated opposition for Condit could be Niko Price or Alan Jouban.
Hardy is in a different spot to Condit, though. The Nottingham native is on a two-fight win streak and wants to come back for one last dance rather than another chance at the top. If he is correct in thinking he can put Pettis away, that fight would provide name value, entertainment in abundance, and a worthwhile pay-check for both men.
The early exchanges between Hardy and Pettis would be fascinating. In a battle of counterstrikers, who would open up first? Would Hardy be willing to clinch with such a devastating striker on the inside, and would Pettis utilize his jiu-jitsu against a man who’s been submitted three times? Intrigue abounds and although Cerrone would be a marketable venture, Pettis would make the most sense.
For the moment, though, it seems Hardy sits in a vacuum in which time doesn’t exist. He hasn’t fought in almost eight years yet still seems relevant thanks to his visibility as a UFC commentator, chirping away and describing knockouts with all the vigor of a child who’s eaten too much candy. He’s always been likeable, right back to that UFC 120 co-main event. When asked what went wrong against Condit, Hardy quipped: “I got punched in the face.”
Redemption for either of the pair would be a feel-good narrative for the end of 2020 but they have to remember the landscape has changed since they traded hostilities in London. In that time eleven of the top 15 welterweights made their UFC debuts, not to mention belt-holder Kamaru Usman too. Nevertheless, with the right matchmaking, Condit and Hardy can fit in again.
Alistair Hendrie is a freelance writer for The Body Lock MMA. He has previously written for Mirror.co.uk and Fighters Only. Check out his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain, featuring interviews with Rosi Sexton, Joanne Calderwood and more.