Bellator MMA president Scott Coker would love to see Heather Hardy become a full-time mixed martial artist. He could get his wish soon enough.
The Brooklyn native has bounced between boxing — where she’s unbeaten in 23 bouts — and Bellator since making her MMA debut at Madison Square Garden in 2017, going 2-1 in the cage while capturing the WBO featherweight in the ring.
But with disagreements between boxing promoters keeping her from the fights she wants, Hardy said it will take a lot for her to get back in the ring anytime soon.
“The only thing that’s going to keep me from staying in the cage is bigger unification bouts. I already said I’m not doing anything in boxing against someone who doesn’t have a title, who isn’t going to be televised and isn’t going to make sense for me,” Hardy said. “I’m not going back for nothing, I have nothing to prove over there, I’m a world champion. My heart right now is with Bellator, unless boxing can drag [me] back, man. I’m excited for this next year.”
Hardy will return to MSG with Bellator on June 14 against an opponent to be determined. Growing impatient with what she calls the “politics” of boxing, the 37-year-old said she jumped at the opportunity to fight in New York once she heard the event was scheduled.
“There was talks about me doing a unification bout and politics just didn’t allow it to happen so when we heard this fight was happening, I told my manager, ‘Get me on it. Nothing is happening with this unification bout, I’m not waiting anymore for it to come true, so let’s do it, I want to do this,' ” Hardy said.
Coker is more than happy to get Hardy on the card. The Bellator president said the promotion would love to have Hardy fight as often as possible as he believes she’s proven to be marketable, but they’ve been forced to work around Hardy’s boxing schedule in the past. If she could devote her time to MMA fully, Coker believes Hardy could be a star.
“Her accomplishments in boxing are at the highest level, so I think that’s very interesting. If she could fight more often, I’d love to get to the point where she’s an elite fighter because she could say she’s the greatest combat sports fighter on the planet, if she had the time to really train and get it together, but one step at a time, we’re looking forward to June 14 and get her back.”
Even if Hardy never steped in the cage again, her time in the MMA world can be considered a success. “The Heat” said the exposure she’s received from Bellator has only increased her exposure and value in the boxing world, something promotors have failed to do for her and other boxers in the past.
“I think they go hand-in-hand. I’ve gotten so many new fans because of Bellator. They’ve televised all three of my fights on Spike, now Paramount, heavily used me on their social media and gave me access to their networks and stuff,” Hardy said. “That was something I didn’t see in boxing. But in all fairness, it’s not only women’s boxing, it’s men’s boxing, too. Because the truth of the matter is Terence Crawford, who is arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer active right now, could walk in the room sit down right there and how many people would know who he was? Not enough. An incredible athlete, but not enough people in this room would know who he was. So shame on boxing, not just women’s boxing.”