By: Rich Bergeron
Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy is a true Xception to the so-called "three strikes rule" often used to Xpell fighters from the UFC when they suffer three straight losses in the octagon.
Hardy's losing effort in the main event of UFC Live 5 against Chris "Lights Out" Lytle was his 4th loss in a row, something Dana White usually responds to by releasing a fighter as quickly as possible. Yet, when Hardy went down in the third-round by submission, the decision to keep or cut Hardy was left out of the Baldfather's hands. Instead, Lorenzo Fertitta saved the day for Hardy with a single tweet. The MMA media quickly set about analyzing and criticizing the UFC for not letting Hardy go, but none of the major outlets seemed to be able to figure out the real reason (see image at left) Dan Hardy is being retained as a UFC fighter. None of the pundits in either the print or television sports media bothered to take a moment to ask, "Why did Lorenzo Fertitta make the call to keep Hardy instead of Dana White?"
The fact is, Dan Hardy's Xyience sponsorship is what really kept him from getting cut. See that UFC label on the Xenergy fruit punch can above that Hardy is prominently featured on? There's got to be at least hundreds of thousands of those cans either in circulation or yet to be distributed by Xyience. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Xyience is owned by Fertitta Enterprises, and the Fertitta brothers are of course the majority owners of the UFC. Xyience-sponsored fighters are company men in more ways than one. They can do no wrong, especially in this case where Hardy is literally the face of Xyience's popular Xenergy brand. Another Xyience-branded fighter claimed recently that about 85-percent of MMA fighters are using performance enhancing drugs.
Hardy's fight against Chris Lytle turned out to be a landmark last fight for Lytle, who told Hardy at the weigh in that he intended to retire after the match. Lytle specifically told Hardy he wanted to make it a good battle to go out on, which obviously called for plenty of toe to toe action. Hardy obliged and tried to outbox a former pro boxer, which didn't work out in his favor despite a few bright spots. The whole fight just seemed too happy and magical for Lytle when the smoke cleared. Stories after the fight centered around Lytle ending his career on a high note. Other fighters were forced to take notice and told to try to follow Lytle's example of how to retire properly. It seemed Hardy was in a lose-lose situation going into the fight. If he beat Lytle up he'd spoil the legend's leaving the league on good terms. If he lost he risked getting cut, or at least that's what he must have imagined his fate would be. Hardy actually seemed surprised that he wasn't voted off the island after the loss, and he hinted at his own possible retirement in promising to take some time off to reinvent himself.
John "Doomsday" Howard was quick to call foul at the three strikes rule causing him to lose his job when Hardy was allowed to stick around after losing four consecutive fights. The double standard even led Howard to challenge Hardy on YouTube. Howard's last three fights were long battles against Matt Brown, Thiago Alves, and Jake Ellenberger. If Howard had been sponsored by Xyience, would he still be working in the octagon? Maybe so, but after the cut it's a bad idea for him to call out a company man like Dan Hardy and expect the UFC brass to bite.
Hardy's good fortune didn't end with Lorenzo's decision to keep him around. He also netted a $65,000 fight of the night bonus. Hardy's loss by submission also gave Lytle the chance to bolster his retirement fund with $130,000 in bonus money, adding a submission of the night bonus to his half of the fight of the night honors. Looking back it all just seems too perfect, almost as if the fight was fixed.
Only Hardy's genuine disappointment gave the impression that he really did do his absolute best to win the fight. He even hinted in his post-fight commentary that he was glad the UFC was going to give him "one more fight." Just in case he loses that next opportunity to prove himself he let it be known he was going to take his $65k back to the UK and go on hiatus for a while. This, of course, will give Xyience plenty of time to sell off their remaining fruit punch "collector cans" of Xenergy featuring Dan Hardy's face on them.
The boxing game helped coin the phrase "tomato can" to represent an easy opponent to beat. Dan Hardy's losing streak is starting to make "Xenergy can" sound like the best MMA equivalent of that label. He might even cause other Xyience sponsored fighters to refuse to have their faces plastered on future Xenergy cans for fear of the whole streak representing a Xyience curse akin to the Madden NFL and Sports Illustrated cover curses that plagued other sports teams and players in the past. Whatever happens next, look for the preferential treatment of Hardy to persist as long as fruit punch Xenergy is still on store shelves.