If you’ve not been paying attention to Bellator lately, then perhaps it’s time you do. Just a cursory glance at Bellator’s New York City card should be enough to garner interest of any MMA fan. But it’s not just the fights that makes this event special, the event as a whole is poised to be an unforgettable spectacle.
To start, the event is being held at Madison Square Garden. The broadcast team will include two beloved figures in the MMA world; Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo. Podcast host and ex-UFC fighter, Brendan Schaub, is co-hosting the pre-show action live with Jenn Brown…Dave Navarro will shred the National Anthem on the guitar. Bellator 180 is going to be fun. You can catch the weigh-ins here live at the bottom this page.
Amongst the chaos and big name fighters, one athlete is flying under the radar, despite her compelling story. Heather Hardy is a mother, an undefeated boxing champion, and a total inspiration. With a perfect 20-0 pro boxing record and opportunities in the sport slowly withering away, Hardy is stepping into the Bellator cage to make her MMA debut on, arguably, the biggest show the Viacom backed organisation has ever had…
The Neversphere: The Conor and Floyd match is going ahead! Having been involved in professional boxing for years, what do you make of that fight?
Heather: Well, I think that as a boxer who’s transitioned to MMA, I can say that boxing for MMA is a lot different than boxing for boxing. Anyone in boxing knows that Floyd Mayweather has forgotten more about boxing than most people will ever know. I got Money May, all day [Laughs].
The Neversphere: Time to get ready for the hype train! But well before August there’s Bellator 180. With all the craziness going on, and your MMA debut being moved from the Bellator.com prelims to the live Spike card, are you drawing energy from the chaos or is it just background noise to you?
Heather: I’ve fought on a lot of really big shows before, so I’m no stranger to the bright lights. I certainly know what the most important thing is and that’s to come out with the win. My focus hasn’t changed. It’s kinda crazy with the hype around it, but I’ve got a job to do and I’m ready to go out there and do it.
The Neversphere: I watched a short documentary that was filmed as you were climbing the boxing rankings. After it was filmed, you went on to absolutely dominate the boxing scene. Now, you’re turning your attention to MMA. What made you shift your focus?
Heather: About a year ago I was offered a fight and I thought ‘Why not?’ Boxing is kind of slowing down and I wasn’t getting the opportunities I felt I deserved. I was ready to try something new…just see what happens.
So, I trained, trained, trained, trained, trained, and the day before I was to fly out to the weigh-ins, the girl pulled out. That was super disappointing and I felt kind of unfulfilled, but I just kept training and kept it in the back of my head; “I can’t live the rest of my life with trying this at least once.”
I knew I wanted to go back and do it, and then Bellator offered me this fight and a chance on this card…it all just really made sense. I was really excited to jump in and super thankful that my boxing promotor, Lou DiBella, was able to get in touch with Bellator and make this happen. It’s my time!
The Neversphere: As you said you had an MMA fight lined up last November at Invicta, which fell through. I imagine you were considering stepping into MMA well before that fight was booked though, when did you start to think that this was a real possibility for you?
Heather: Probably June last year, right before my fight with Shelly Vincent…We were the first females televised in over 25 years. It was right before I found out that we were going to have that fight that I started making the switch, but then I had that big boxing match and MMA took a bit of a back seat to my boxing a little bit. But I kept wrestling and doing my Jiu Jitsu at Renzo Gracie’s; Daniel Gracie is my coach there.
The Neversphere: You’re clearly in capable hands then! With MMA you need to hone and sharpen so many different techniques, how has the lead up to your first MMA bout been compared to getting ready for a boxing match?
Heather: I have to train in a lot of different disciplines. Where I used to just work on boxing and keeping my body in shape, now I’m training in boxing, Judo, American wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, doing my MMA training, Thai boxing…It’s very time consuming and time is money, so I can’t work as much. I have invested a lot in this fight.
The Neversphere: Your first opponent Alice “The Soccer Mom” Yauger, has a 4-5 MMA record and has had some pro boxing experience but nowhere near as much as you. How do you see the fight playing out?
Heather: I don’t like to imagine how a fight’s going to play out. That can set you up for disappointment, you can’t be overly prepared for one particular style. My coaches watch the tapes and I do what the coaches say, train how the coaches say, and that’s going to get me ready for whatever comes at me.
The Neversphere: As well as mixed martial arts, We also cover gaming and music. I have to ask, what’s your walkout song for Bellator 180 going to be and does it have any special meaning to you?
Heather: I have been walking out to [Alicia Keys’] Girl On Fire since my very first boxing match and it’s the kind of song that when it comes on the radio, my fans will text me pictures of them singing it, or I’ll be walking and random people start singing it to me. That is The Heat song, Girl On Fire.
The Neversphere: And before I let you go, any shout outs?
Heather: The list is so friggin’ long…But if I have to thank anyone right now it’s Bellator for the opportunity, thanks to Lou DiBella for allowing me to do this, thanks to my coaches for giving me the time, thanks to my Mum for helping me with my daughter [Laughs] I think that’s it.
Light Heavyweight Main Event: Chael Sonnen (29-15-1) vs. Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1, 1 NC)
Heavyweight Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) vs. Matt Mitrione (11-5)
Welterweight World Title Bout: Douglas Lima (28-6) vs. Lorenz Larkin (18-5, 1 NC)
Lightweight World Title Bout: Michael Chandler (16-3) vs. Brent Primus (7-0)
Lightweight Feature Bout: Aaron Pico (Debut) vs. Zach Freeman (8-2)
Light Heavyweight World Title Bout: Phil Davis (17-3, 1 NC) vs. Ryan Bader (22-5)
Featherweight Bout: James Gallagher (6-0) vs. Chinzo Machida (5-2)
Welterweight Bout: Neiman Gracie (5-0) vs. Dave Marfone (5-2)
Women’s Flyweight Bout: Heather Hardy (Debut) vs. Alice Yauger (4-5)
Preliminary Card (Bellator.com)
Welterweight Bout: Ryan Couture (10-5) vs. Haim Gozali (7-3)
Lightweight Bout: Jerome Mickle (2-1) vs. Anthony Giacchina (1-1)
Catchweight Bout (168 1bs.): John Salgado (4-7-1) vs. Hugh McKenna (0-1)
Catchweight Bout (130 1bs.): Matt Rizzo (9-2, 1 NC) vs. Sergio da Silva (6-8)
Lightweight Bout: Nate Grebb (3-1) vs. Bradley Desir (9-5)