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Australian Fighting Championship

I’ll always have the advantage in the standup

Issac Hardman is widely considered the best Lightweight in Australasia, and after a fruitful trip to china for AFC 19 he now sits atop the AFC Lightweight Mountain. The China card was historic for many reasons, none more than the fact that Issac headlined the card and in doing so won his first domestic mixed martial arts title. The experience is something that will stick with Issac for a long time to come:

“AFC china was a massive milestone for me, I got the call on a Sunday morning after being out the night before with friends celebrating some teammates winning there fights and it was a big night! I seen a message come through Facebook from Adam asking for my number so he could give me a call, I took his phone call while munching on a ice cream and he said Rob had hurt himself and I was his first thought as a replacement asking if I wanted to fight in 4 weeks for the AFC Lightweight title. I always call Adrian and Blair before anything gets confirmed and they both said let’s do it so the next 4 weeks Blair and Adrian put everything into me to get me ready for that fight. As far as the fight it went exactly how we thought it was going too and how we trained for James. China as an experience was really different; I got to travel with Adrian and we seen and done some really cool things that some people will never get the chance to do and it makes it that much better that doing what I love got me there! And I thought it would be fitting to use Adrian Pang’s walkout song ‘Sandstorm’ for my first title fight! Winning the belt with Adrian beside me is something I’ll never forget”

As Issac mentioned, the fight against James went exactly as planned; and observing from cage side, the performance was tactically impeccable and was executed perfectly. Issac’s movement, his use of range and the diversity of his strikes left James puzzled; safe to say Issac was satisfied with his performance too:

Me and Blair my boxing and conditioning coach trained everyday together for that fight, we done countless amounts of rounds working my jab and my straight right and staying at range, the fight went perfectly for me watching it back I felt like I would have finished the fight and stopped James if the fight went on, it did get stopped because of the cut and people will say that’s not a good way to win a title but Blair teaches me to throw my punches to cause damage like that and if my opponent can’t move his head and get out of the way it’s only a matter of time before his face burst open and bleeds everywhere. We fight in 4oz gloves, you can’t expect to walk through punches all night and not get cut, silly him for not moving his head and thinking he won’t get cut, and like I said if that fight went any longer I feel like I would have stopped him anyway, it was only a matter of time! 

Winning any fight will generate a level of emotion; winning a title on the biggest platform in Australian MMA is something very special. Interviewing Issac after the fight, the raw emotion he showed was awe-inspiring, and it’s an interview that I will remember for a long time to come. Issac took the time to pay homage to the people that have influenced him through his MMA journey:

“I was quite emotional after the fight; it was my first title fight and international fight and it really did mean a lot to me. Just getting to represent Adrian and Blair makes me so proud and it’s a chance for me to show everything they do for me. Those two men are like fathers to me, we have a really strong relationship and bond through fighting and the fact that my dad isn’t around anymore because of cancer makes me gravitate towards them even more; every young kid needs a father like figure in there life and I’ve got two; without these two men in my corner I don’t think I’d fight anymore it just wouldn’t be the same” 

So after Issac’s success in China, the hunter now becomes the hunted, and on October 28 he’ll defend his AFC Lightweight title for the very first time. Ones mentality can change after they become a champion; for starters the champion now has something tangible to lose. For Issac however it will be business as usual as he prepares for the title defence:

“As always I’ll be getting ready at my 2 gyms Integrated MMA under Adrian Pang and his pro team which not to mention is the best in the Country, and at Nitro Boxing where I do my boxing, strength and conditioning with Blair Studley. We have a fair few southpaws in the gym so getting ready for Rob will be no problem and in particular Jackson Small who is also my house mate, his near an identical build to Rob and a southpaw as well, he has been my main training partner along with Adrian and Blair”

The number 1 contender for Issac’s Lightweight title is Rob Hill. It was Rob who was originally scheduled to meet James Bishop in China however injury forced him to withdraw. Rob’s loss was well and truly Issac’s gain and as history will show, Issac made the most of that opportunity. Now Rob will final get his shot, but for Issac it’s just another opponent on his journey to martial arts greatness:

“Rob is different but at the end of the day it’s a fight and that’s what we are going to do. Everyone I’ve fought has had more experience then me and posed threats but we always come in with a great game plan to get the job done, and the fact that Adrian has fought and beat Rob makes me that much more confident”

On paper, Issac and Rob appear to be polar opposites! Their styles are uniquely different, their frames are very different and their approach in the cage is different. So in a fight where so many differences are evident, one must ponder where will the key advantages lie? Issac for one clearly understands what his keys to victory are:

“I’ll always have the advantage in the stand up, that’s what I love to do plus it’s entertaining and this sport in for entertainment so that’s what I’ll be going to do. Everyone always doubts my ground game only because I’ve never been there and that’s only because nobody has taken me down apart from Kieran Joblin who only got one takedown at the end of round 2 because of some bad footwork on my behalf, the best lightweight in Australia and NZ couldn’t get me down and that’s his bread and butter so that gives me a lot of confidence as well. Blair always has me in phenomenal condition so I’ll have the lungs to go 5 rounds”

Issac will have the distinct honour of co-main eventing the first co-promoted AFC and KLF Kunlun Fight MMA card. Together, these two promotions have plans to revolutionise the sport of mixed martial arts and spawn a whole new array of opportunities for martial artists. Issac couldn’t be positioned any better as one of the promotions current champions and a co-main event spot on October 28. The potential opportunities that await is something Issac is very keen to investigate further:

“It’s awesome that the two brands have come together; it just puts us as Australian MMA athletes out on the International stage I think it’s a great thing, and being one of the co branded promotion champions makes my stock go up even more. I compete in all types of fighting, I just had my bro boxing debut and I’ve fought kickboxing as well, I want to get in and amongst as many promotions/styles of fighting as possible so maybe even a KFL fight before I’m locked down in the UFC” 

So as Issac’s stock continues to rise, he slowly but surely dispatches the other Lightweight contenders in this Country and abroad. Rob Hill is the sole focus right now, but should Issac get through Rob on October 28, ‘who might be next on Issac’s radar’ will become the million-dollar question:

“I’m going to get through Rob and then I wouldn’t mind having the rest of the year to relax and enjoy how successful this year has been for me and my coaches. We have some cool things happening at work (Nitro Boxing) and I’ve been wanting to have another boxing fight so maybe that to finish the year off, but as far as any other match ups here in Australia go, yeah there is a few people I’d love to get out in the cage with and figure who the better person is. I think if Kieran asks for a rematch for his title I’d be more then happy to give him that opportunity; he has been the best Lightweight for a long time and holds just about all the belts. I know Callan Potter And Brenton Mumford are fighting in the next two weeks and both those guys tell everyone their the best in the division so there’s the match up between the winner of that fight possibly. It’s an exciting time for MMA in Australia with more of our talent getting signed so I’m looking forward to what’s to come; keep an eye on the Headsplitter!”

This blockbuster card will definitely sell out so get your tickets now: Tickets

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