Heather “The Heat” Hardy is a woman who hardly needs any introduction. With a professional boxing record of 18-0, her last fight was the first women’s televised bout on NBCSN. One of the most well-known athletes in NYC, Hardy is based out of the famous Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo, Brooklyn. A plethora of articles have been written about her, either demonstrating her dedication to the art of boxing, highlighting her heart and determination as an incredibly busy single parent, or illustrating her work regarding women’s rights. A 2014 documentary directed by Natasha Verma titled “Hardy” detailed The Heat’s life and struggles, encapsulating the concept that being a fighter is hard, but Hardy is damn good at it. If there’s one woman in New York who can do anything, it’s Heather. And “anything” includes Mixed Martial Arts.
Being a boxer in New York City over the last year hasn’t been the easiest road for anyone. With the recent legalization of MMA and the increased insurance rates for all combat sports in New York, training camp wasn’t the hardest part about being a fighter. Getting fights was. This was the leading factor in Hardy’s decision to start training for MMA.
“I’m taking this on as a means to survive,” Hardy says. “I haven’t had any fights since my last bout in August, and my fight in December was cancelled. I fight once a quarter and rely on it to pay my bills and get me by. When my fight was cancelled, it screwed up my bills and I needed something to happen for me. My promoter Lou DiBella asked if I wanted to do the MMA fight in January or March, and I wanted to make sure I got paid, so I took the fight in January. It moved fast, but I had taken on a boxing match only a few weeks after I started training. I think I did pretty well, so I’m not concerned about the time for this.”
Due to her opponent’s unforeseen injury just days before Hardy’s Invicta FC debut as an MMA Strawweight, she is unfortunately no longer fighting on the Invicta card. However, months of preparation were not completely in vain, as The Heat has a boxing bout scheduled for March at the Barclays Center. It does put in perspective just how much goes into preparing for a fight, and the expenses that pile up while doing so. Taking into consideration all the variables that are part of an average training camp, such as gym fees, travel for training and fight location, trainer percentage, and management, the basic costs can range anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000, if not more. Including additional expenses, such as rent payments, groceries, and utilities, all the while depending on a future paycheck to break even–it can be disheartening to hear that your fight will no longer happen.
“I had a very hectic fight camp,” Hardy says firmly. Unusually soft-spoken for a woman who can break your nose with a single jab, it is clear in her voice the sacrifices that are made while she is preparing for her fights. The Heat has many responsibilities beyond fighting, including training her clients and taking care of her daughter. Her day begins early and ends late, with others punching her in the face or trying to choke her in between. It is incredible to see someone with so much to take care of, focus intensely on one single goal. Transitioning from purely boxing to the full spectrum that encompasses MMA would be overwhelming for many, but Hardy only views it as exciting.
“My mentality is still ‘win or die,’ but I learned with MMA you have a much bigger toolbox. I can do different things such as taking my opponent down to the ground instead of just standing up, and the transitions that work in between.”
Still training under her primary coach Devon Cormack, The Heat had to travel around New York City much more than she usually does in order to make it to all her practices. One such place was a mecca of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Renzo Gracie Academy. Hardy began training with black belt Rob Constance and continued to spar with UFC bantamweight fighter Katlyn “Blondefighter” Chookigan.
“I have great training partners and have been learning amazing techniques. Learning Jiu Jitsu and American Wrestling has been a different animal altogether. I have been able to pick up things quickly, especially since I have already been fighting and know how to be coachable. What has been my best asset however, is that I am determined to win. You could throw anything at me, and I’m just willing to do whatever it takes.”
As far as New York’s first love, boxing? Hardy believes it is not dead in the Big Apple.
“Things are getting resolved. I still have a fight scheduled for March, and I know I will continue fighting here. The small stage is struggling, but I know it will all come together. I focus on one fight at a time, and my energy [was] on the upcoming Invicta bout. Ask me afterwards what I’ll be thinking about, and you’ll know it’s only my next fight.”
The hardest part about this journey for Heather hasn’t been schlepping her things all over New York or trying to escape armbars. It’s been allocating time to spend with her daughter, as her incredibly demanding training schedule takes up most of her day.
“It costs a lot of money to train MMA. It’s a huge investment. You train in so many different gyms, you have your partners, your equipment, your doctor appointments, everything. You are also spending so much of your time and sacrificing your body. I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would like with my daughter, but as soon as this done I’ll be right back there with her.”
Despite this setback, Heather Hardy is a woman who has been able to endure everything life has thrown at her. From surviving a rape at a young age to putting her life back together after Hurricane Sandy, The Heat has taken adversity and used it as fuel in the ring.
“I only feel like another door has opened for me. I am excited that I am learning so many new things and finding what I can put together. I have so many people that support me, and a whole team of sponsors, my clients, and my closest friends who want me to succeed. It has been very tough, but it hasn’t been anything I couldn’t do.”
All photos courtesy of Anthony Geathers (@anthonybgeathers, anthonygeathersphoto.com)