Following her well-received pro debut at the Madison Square Garden nearly four months ago, undefeated boxer-turned-MMA fighter Heather Hardy is set to return to the cage on October 20 on her second MMA fight under Bellator.
Hardy is matched against Kristina Williams, a fighter from Oklahoma, who is making her pro debut fight. Williams has a 3-0 amateur record with a taekwondo blackbelt.
Hardy acknowledged that the first round of her pro debut fight against Alice Yauger in June was a “big adjustment.” It was the first time she “felt challenged” in the first round “in a long time”, she added during a pre-fight publicity event in Brooklyn. She was knocked out in the first round but managed to regain her footing and won by referee stoppage in the third round.
“For this fight, I’m working on controlling distance and range,” Hardy said.
Her team is not taking things for granted. “Her opponent is undefeated, so she has experience,” said Devon Cormack, Hardy’s boxing and kickboxing coach.
Hardy and Williams are in the main card of Bellator 185 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, which is headlined by the middleweight bout between Alexander Shlemenko and Gegard Mousasi, as well as the welterweight bout between Zak Bucia and Neiman Gracie.
“I was surprised when I got the offer (to fight Hardy). It’s awesome” Williams said in an interview with FloCombat. Influenced by her brother, Williams took up mixed martial arts after college in 2012 and notes that she has more versatility than Hardy. “I am more versatile. I’ve been rolling for a long time. I’m confident on the ground but I’m also confident standing up. I’ve been doing kickboxing for a long time,” she said.
Hardy’s main card event is a far cry from her boxing events. Even with 20 professional boxing fights and an undefeated record, Hardy was never in the main card, and has just one televised bout. “I love boxing, I’d love to fight for a world title, but no one wants to pay me,” she laughed.
Ana Julaton, who has also crossed over to MMA from boxing, and is fighting her first bout with Bellator, said she is interested in fighting Hardy. “I have a name, I have a brand. Heather Hardy has the same thing, so let’s bring it on” she said. Julaton has a 14-4-3 boxing record and a 2-2 pro MMA record.
Julaton said a match between her and Hardy would be a “mega fight”. “It’s something that hasn’t been done before and I think that’s something that people can gravitate towards, and I think it can be an opportunity to open up a lot more doors for female fighters,” she said.