Heather Hardy described herself as a fighter, whether by career as a boxer or her life’s experiences as a sexual abuse survivor and a single mother for the past 13 years.
The two-division boxing champion from Brooklyn channeled that fighting spirit to get through her first round as a professional mixed martial artist. She then let her boxing skill take over as she picked about Alice Yauger to win by technical knockout with 13 seconds left in the third and final round at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden Saturday night.
“In boxing, it takes me usually like a round to get loose, but I have 10,” Hardy said. “You forget that round that took me to get loose. But this one, you only have three. So, distance, timing, everything from smaller gloves, it just took me a little bit.”
She did so on Spike TV in front of a national audience, the type of exposure she lacked as a 20-0 boxer and sought from her foray into MMA.
“I think I just fell in love, guys” Hardy said about competing in MMA. “I’m hooked.”
Yauger (4-6) used her MMA experience in the first round. Despite eating a few shots, Yauger was able to get inside and land several knees, winning the round on two of the judges’ scorecards.
In the second round, Hardy appeared more comfortable, landing several combinations including a solid left kick/right hand combo in the final minute that startled Yauger.
Hardy was cut late in the third round via headbutt. Referee Jon McCarthy paused the bout to call in the doctor.
“I was telling the ref it was a headbutt, don’t you dare stop this fight,” Hardy said. “He’s like, ‘I know, Heather, relax.’ I so wanted to finish. I was so focused on let me get back at her.”
Hardy was able to continue — and continue punching Yauger she did. Hardy dropped Yauger in the center of the cage but did not rush right in. Instead, she waited for Yauger to stand back up. She unloaded a series of combinations that eventually pushed Yauger back to the cage, finishing the bout with a left-left-right combination.
“I’m so happy right now,” Hardy said. “I didn’t even care that I have stitches in my face.”