For a professional fighter who has never had to compete outside the five boroughs, Heather Hardy’s bout on Friday’s Bellator 185 event at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut is a new experience.
“I keep telling people I have to travel for [the fight],” Hardy told amNewYork, “and they’re like ‘Heather, you’re not traveling, you’re driving somewhere.’
“But, it is traveling because I’m not home. I’m not cutting weight in my own gym. ... My rituals are going out the window for this one.”
Hardy, a Gerristen Beach native now living in DUMBO, made her name as an undefeated champion boxer but will compete in MMA for the second time this weekend. She will face Kristina Williams, who is making her professional debut, in a flyweight bout. The 35-year-old Brooklynite won her first Bellator matchup via TKO over Alice Yauger when the promotion staged its first Madison Square Garden event in June.
Although Hardy’s accomplishments in boxing — she is 20-0 and the WBC International female featherweight champion — might give her license to fast-track her way to top opponents, she prefers a humble to her new sport.
“I think it would be very arrogant of me to demand these big fights and to say I can beat up this girl, and I can beat up that girl, because I really haven’t proved myself in MMA yet,” Hardy said. “I’m still a rookie.”
Hardy, a John Jay graduate, once aimed to join the NYPD in forensics. But, when her daughter was born in 2004, she put that desire “on the back burner.” After her divorce, she took up and fell in love with the sweet science.
“I found boxing and realized this is really what I am supposed to be doing,” Hardy said.
Hardy trains and works at Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO for boxing. To hone her MMA style and maximize her striking base even against grapplers, she trains at Gracie academies in midtown and Williamsburg.
“When you’re on the ground, it’s not, ‘OK, now we have to do ju-jitsu,’ ” Hardy said. “No, I’m gonna punch the [expletive] out of you.”