A four-fight skid that nearly ended his UFC career also brought clarity to Dan Hardy.
Now back on the winning track, the British welterweight is planning to retire next year, if all goes well.
"I'm ready for a new challenge, I'll be honest," Hardy said. "There are a lot of things about this sport that I love, and a lot of things about this sport that I don't like at all."
Hardy declined to elaborate on his reasons for leaving and said he'll do so when he's closer to retirement.
"Martial arts for me has always been a tool to understand myself a little more, and it's getting to the stage where it's run its course now," he offered. "The structure the sport has taken on is taking away from that for me, and I think I'm best served to be somewhere else in the future."
For now, Hardy (25-10 MMA, 6-4 UFC) is focused on a fight with Matt Brown (16-11 MMA, 9-4 UFC) at UFC on FOX 7, which takes place April 20 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
"Whatever Matt can bring, I can bring it back on him tenfold and make it really rough for him," Hardy said.
The fight is the first of what Hardy hopes is a five-fight win streak ending with a defense of the UFC welterweight title, which is currently held by the man who first halted his octagon win streak, Georges St-Pierre.
Hardy belted out four straight wins before getting a shot at the French-Canadian champ at UFC 111. In a one-sided fight, St-Pierre won via unanimous decision.
Subsequent losses to Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle prompted many fans to wonder whether Hardy would be released from his contract, but UFC executive Lorenzo Fertitta said the fighter's job was safe.
Hardy then rebounded with a first-round KO of Duane Ludwig, which earned him a $70,000 performance bonus, and outpointed Amir Sadollah in his most recent outing.
Seizing upon current momentum is Hardy's chief goal.
"As of right now, I just need to embrace that instinctual inner-reptile and have a run at the belt again," he said. "I'm excited about this year because my potential is sky-high, and it's completely open for me to do whatever I like with it. I'm very determined to make this a big year for me and step away from the top of the sport and do something else for a while."
Of the many things he plans to do after hanging up his gloves, Hardy plans to get a doctorate in philosophy and backpack around South America, where he visited this past summer and participated in a life-changing ayahuasca retreat.
"I'll never be away from the gym for too long," he said. "I couldn't walk away from it entirely. I just think there's a time to review where you're at and see what you want to do with the rest of your life, and I think in that two years when I was losing, I had a lot of time to do that, and I made plans for the future that I was excited about. Now, I've got a second chance at my UFC career, and I'm going to run at it and see what happens after it."
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