Dan Hardy discusses what he looks for from fighters as PFL Challenger Series judge

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 01: Magomed Magomedkerimov walks to the cage before fighting against Dilano Taylor during PFL 6 at the Overtime Elite Arena on July 1, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 01: Magomed Magomedkerimov walks to the cage before fighting against Dilano Taylor during PFL 6 at the Overtime Elite Arena on July 1, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Dan Hardy shares advice on what he’ll be looking from those competing in the PFL Challenger Series that he’ll be a celerity judge for

One of the more notable features of the PFL Challenger Series is the role of celebrity judges in determining which fighters earn contracts with the PFL every week. These celebrity judges have ranged from former MMA champions like Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort and Tyron Woodley, to celebrities outside of MMA including Wiz Khalifa, Ray Lewis and Mike Tyson.

This season, one of the names getting the opportunity to partake in this role is Dan Hardy, a former UFC welterweight title challenger who is today known as one of the most in-depth, detailed expert analysts in the sport.

In an exclusive interview with FanSided MMA’s Amy Kaplan, Hardy suggests calling himself a celebrity is a bit of a stretch. He, however, noted that being a celebrity judge for the PFL Challenger Series allows him a different kind of role.

“I don’t really classify myself as a celebrity,” Hardy told FanSided. “So you know, sitting alongside people like Wiz Khalifa, Jeremy Piven, I feel a little out of place. But ultimately it’s nice to be able to sit back and watch a few fights where guys are fully focused on delivering an amazing performance for the judges. And it’s very rare that I get to sit and just be a fan and enjoy it, and then give my thoughts at the end of it. It’s an exciting thing and exciting opportunity for these fighters as well, which I always feel brings the best performances out.”

Hardy says that as a PFL Challenger Series celebrity judge, there isn’t as much work that goes into a fight — compared to when he’s getting ready to do color commentary for an MMA event or produce any other form of fight breakdown piece.

That being said, he doesn’t completely take his foot off the gas for prep. He’ll do some basic research on the fighters he’ll be watching before coming to the proverbial table with his thoughts on the fight’s events after it happens.

Dan Hardy says composure under pressure is key for a fighter’s success to earn PFL contract in the PFL Challenger Series

“I will probably know a little bit about them before the fights start, just because I kind of want to gain a bit of a picture of what they’re bringing to the table,” Hardy said. “I won’t be researching them like I would if I was commentating. If I was commentating, I’d be there to give information on them that somebody else might not know.

“I’ll have a quick look at their record. I might watch a couple of videos online and just kind of just to be an excited fan more than anything, to be honest.”

With a multitude of celebrity judges — all with various backgrounds in and out of MMA — each may look at a specific element that he or she feels a fighter must have in order to succeed in the PFL.

For Hardy, that one key factor above the rest is composure.

“There’s a lot on the line for these guys. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of situation,” Hardy said. “And the best fighters, the most special fighters, are the ones that face that adversity like it’s absolutely nothing. We’ve seen that throughout the PFL before, and for me, that’s the most impressive thing because that shows me not only that they’re ready to command that space that they’re in, but they’re also potentially ready for bigger challenges.”

Hardy added that with the added pressure, fighters need to be able to condition themselves while. in the cage. Those fighters who aren’t prepared, Hardy says, will find themselves low on energy and spirit quickly.

Other pieces of advice he’d give to fighters who he’ll be watching in the PFL Challenger Series cage? Believe in yourself and take a chance.

“Conditioning is everything for me because it takes away a lot of the anxiety before the fight starts — and you can’t anticipate how you’re going to feel when anxiety kicks in because it can sap 50 percent of your energy before the fight has even started,” Hardy said. “But ultimately, this sport is built on taking chances. You don’t have those highlight moments without taking incredible chances.

“Don’t overextend yourself and be reckless, but believe in yourself, believe in the skills that you’ve been working with your coaches, the combinations that have worked in sparring. Just go out there and just let it all hang out for 15 minutes and, and enjoy yourself.”

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