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Australian Fighting Championship

I’m not the target I’m the shooter

It is any fighters dream to capture Gold in their career, especially if you can achieve that dream on the most historical card in Australian MMA history. An opportunity of this nature presents itself sparingly, however on April 15 at AFC 18 in Chins, Issac Hardman will get that opportunity and he plans to make the absolute most of it.

Comprising a 6-0 record and having taken on and beaten some of the most formidable opponents in the sport, Issac is perfectly primed to capture his first martial arts title. The journey so far has been a memorable one, a wave of ever increasing momentum one might say, and that momentum is driving Issac all the way to China:

“The journey has been unreal; I started fighting professional [at the] end of 2015 and since turning pro nothing has gone wrong. This will be my 3rd time fighting for the promotion (AFC) and the previous times have been a great experience; the show is run perfectly and a solid crowd always turns up. I can’t wait to rip in for the Chinese crowd.  As far as challenges go I haven’t ran into many and I don’t mean that as in I’ve overlooked any of my opponents, so far all of them have had more experience then me and a winning record. I just mean I work at Nitro Boxing which is where I do my strength and conditioning and my boxing under Blair Studley and then Integrated is just around the corner from that where Adrian Pang runs everything, I know so many fighters have trouble because they work big hours out in the sun then have to bust their ass at training it’s like doing a 16 hour day, I work 4 hours in the morning then train mid morning rest all throughout the day then go back to work and Integrated in the evenings and to add to that I live 3 minutes away. I think to make it far in this sport you need to surround yourself with the sport and be in the environment constantly and that’s exactly what I’ve managed to do. At work we are constantly working on things with our clients and in turn that makes me better and then at Integrated we have the best guys in Aus on the mats and my two coaches are best mates so they are always talking and working together to make me better. I couldn’t be in a better place, it’s been just one perfect wave and I’m planning on riding it through AFC 18 and into the rest of 2017”

Last time out, Issac faced feared striker Pumau Campbell in what most pundits considered to be his biggest test to date. In what was positioned as a shine or decline moment in his career, Issac well and truly shined on route to putting Campbell away in impressive fashion. Issac was very happy with his performance in the fight however recognised areas in which improvements can be made:

“Yeah I kicked off my 2017 with a super tough opponent in Pumau, who has trouble getting fights over here in Oz because his such a dangerous and unpredictable opponent with not the best record so it’s a bad match up for a lot of the guys in the top 10. Going into that fight he’d had double my experience and cage time but Adrian and Blair felt like we would pick him apart and thought it would be the perfect fight to put everyone on notice. I felt like I was a bit of a underdog going in and everyone expected it to be a super tough fight, and without taking anything away from Pumau who is one of the nicest and most genuine guys I’ve fought, we put a game plan together and made it look easy. In saying that when we watched the fight back we felt like the finish could have come a lot earlier in the fight and that’s what will happen next time”

Issac will headline the most historic card in Australian MMA history; however his position as headliner was not the case a couple of months back. Rob Hill was originally scheduled to fight for the AFC Lightweight title however he unfortunately had to withdraw after succumbing to a knee injury. In what is often a cruel sport, Rob’s disappointment quickly became Issac’s opportunity; and although Issac is thrilled to be given the opportunity to step in for Rob Hill, he was of the opinion that he should have been on the card anyway:

“I’m over the moon to be a part of the AFC’s first show in China. When they announced they were going there and I didn’t have anything lined up with them I was quite dirty to be honest. I have beaten one of there golden boys in Kaan Ofli and I seen he was going and thought shit why not me? Getting the call up was a funny story! I was out and about the Saturday night before supporting teammates fighting; I had a few beers and was laying in bed Sunday eating chips and ice cream when I got an inbox from Adam saying give me a call, I did and sure enough he asked me if I wanted to take a short notice title fight against James Bishop. I nearly jumped off my balcony, I rang my coaches straight away and they confirmed with Adam I knew instantly they were going to accept the fight and waiting for there call back to confirm it was the longest 5 minutes ever. I am so pumped to be a part of this show and the title and main event slot just tops it off and makes it that much more special!”

As Issac previously mentioned, his martial arts home is split between Nitro Boxing and Integrated MMA. Coaches Blair Studley and Adrian Pang closely oversee Issac’s development and continually mould and refine his MMA game. Having Blair and Adrian in his corner is probably enough, however as Issac’s alludes to, his team continues to grow every day:

“As always I’ll be getting ready with my teams Integrated MMA and Nitro Boxing in Brisbane; my coaches are Adrian Pang and Blair Studley. I’m so fortunate to have these men in my corner, they are the best around and to top it off these two are like my main training partners too. They get in there and put it on me first hand so I get the best of both worlds. Along with those two my other main training partners are Damien Brown who is now fighting for the UFC. I’ve got Alex McDonald who was just voted the best domestic fighter in Australia for 2016 and the current Brace Lightweight Champ; Elliot Compton who is a multiple Muay Thai champ and soon to be world champ; then there’s guys like Tristan Murphy, Craig Callaghan, Dan Hill, Jackson Small, Joe Bishop, David Chand all in the gyms and that’s just to name a few. All these guys have different skills and that’s why we are always improving. Our team is the best and I can’t wait to represent and prove it once again on April 15”

In order to achieve his dream of claiming MMA Gold, Issac will have to get through the ultra talented James ‘Pitbull’ Bishop at AFC 18. James’s two fights in the Lightweight Tournament thus far ended in devastating fashion; particularly his last fight when he knocked out Gokhan Turkyilmaz with a perfectly placed knee. Issac is all too familiar with James and knows exactly what to expect come April 15:

“I know James Bishop through the AFC promotion; we both fought on it in 2015 and our coaches know each other quite well, I’m pretty sure we were matched up once before but it fell through. I know his a tough fella that loves to scrap, he comes forward and pushes the pace. I’m looking forward to someone that steps forward and doesn’t go backwards. I don’t try and hide what I’m good at, I love to keep the fight standing, I’ve never shot for a takedown so there you go I’ll be keeping it on the feet and everybody in the division knows that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t wrestle/grapple, I love wrestling, there’s nothing more satisfying then holding someone down and punching the absolute *expletitive* out of them. But for now my stand up is getting the job done nicely so I won’t change it until I’ve got too.  My advantages will be my reach my sharp stand up and gas tank! 

Issac has gallantly taken the fight with James on somewhat short notice, however in Issac’s world there is really no such thing as a short notice fight as he is always in the gym and always maintaining fight condition:

“4 weeks for some people would be short notice but for me I’m always training, after my last fight I was back in the gym the following Tuesday helping my teammates get ready, I don’t have time off I just eat a lot more after fights hahaha so nah it doesn’t change a thing it’s perfect timing I just come off a good win a month ago and felt awesome going into the third, my reactions are sharp and the gas tank is full. 5×5 will be perfect and I’m looking forward to the extra rounds if it gets that deep into the fight” 

The AFC’s movement into China throws up a whole heap of anomalies, one of which is how the Chinese fans will respond to the home grown AFC warriors. Issac’s style is visually appealing; he trades hands and knocks people out so that will no doubt win him some votes with the Chinese crowd! And if that fails, he may have a couple other tricks up his sleeve to get them onside:

“I’m still trying to decide on a walkout song that will get the Chinese crowd pumped up, I know they love martial arts and the warrior spirit; I’m planning on putting on a display they won’t forget and leave wanting more; they will remembering my name, the fight will be finished before the final bell one way or another”

Issac’s career is still in its infancy, however is seems he has accomplished so much already. He may already be somewhat of a household name, but if it has it his way after April 15 he’ll be the AFC Lightweight Champion sitting atop the Australian Martial Arts Mountain. And although that may make him the hunted, that is something he very much welcomes:

“Since I started this journey I’ve dreamed of having a belt; I’m so driven by it, I want that belt so bad I know after a week it’ll mean nothing and will just sit in my cupboard somewhere. But I’m not leaving without it, and then I’m going to take it out to dinner hahaha having that belt means my stock goes up as a fighter and I’ll be close to the top of the division. Every fighter in the weight class knows who has the belts in each promotion. Being the AFC champ will get people talking and in the end that’s what you need. And sure there will be a target on my back but I’ll happily welcome it! And I’ve said it before I’m not the target I’m the shooter”

Article by Josh Warner AFC

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