Thursday, 19 May 2011

Veteran UFC heavyweight Antoni Hardonk retires from MMA; taking up coaching in California

By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Dutch striker Antoni Hardonk is following in the footsteps of Ricardo Almeida and Randy Couture from the last month, as he has officially announced his retirement from active competition.

The news comes from, who revealed his retirement late Saturday night.

Hardonk hasn't been seen in active competition since back to back losses in 2009 to Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry, and after making a lot of changes in that time and taking on new coaching responsibilities, he's decided to turn his attention away from his in-cage exploits.

"My last two fights in 2009, I wasn't really happy with the way I prepared myself leading up to the fights, my living situation, or the results of the fights," he said. "So at the end of 2009, I wanted to make some changes... I decided to settle in California and open up my own studio. I had my own space where I could train the way I wanted to with the people I wanted to. I always had an interest in teaching so I thought I could start teaching and build a team around me, and that's what I did."

"I took a hiatus in 2010, I opened up my gym in spring of 2010, started teaching and started building a team, both for recreational practitioners that love the sport, and for some of the guys that I always trained with like Vladimir Matyushenko, Jared Hamman, and some other fighters that joined us. And I got more into the role of trainer/coach. I still had fighting in my head because I was still young and I love competing, but I got so busy that going into 2011, I felt that I was really motivated in teaching and coaching and I wasn't really training myself as much."

Hardonk didn't intend to reach this conclusion when he set out to make these changes at the end of 2009, but the 35-year-old simply found new satisfaction in coaching; and with that taking up the vast majority of his time, he didn't have any leftover to dedicate to getting himself back in fighting shape.

"Fighting is a full-time job,? he said. ?It's not something you can do on the side, and I didn't want to do things halfway. I didn't want to run my gym halfway and I didn't want to train for a fight halfway. If I go into the Octagon, I want to be the best Antoni Hardonk ever and I want to surprise people with my new skills and I want to show a better version of me. And I felt that that was going to be difficult, so I thought about it for a while, and then I pulled the trigger and decided that I love teaching and coaching. It's something that I'd like to focus on now and in the future."

"I think [coaching is] something I always had in me, but I put it away because I put myself first and I wanted to enjoy this lifestyle and fight and compete and test myself. But taking that year off and focusing more on that other side and that teaching and coaching aspect of myself, I found that I get as much satisfaction from that as from fighting itself."

Penick's Analysis: Hardonk was a part of some very entertaining fights in his time, and he was always an enjoyable fighter to watch. He wasn't the most successful - his 8-6 MMA record and 10-5 kickboxing record attest to that - but he was a tough fighter with a lot of power and that made for some very fun fights. The fight with Pat Barry, even though it didn't go his way, was an excellent back and forth fight in which each fighter had the other hurt and on the ropes at some point, and he was able to provide battles like that even in losing efforts. His 4-4 mark in the UFC saw him earn three straight TKO wins before the losses to Kongo and Barry, and though he didn't get a chance to make a comeback after being disappointed in those fights, I think this role as coach is going to suit him very well going forward. So best of luck to Antoni Hardonk and his gym, he's a competitor that will still be missed in the cage, but we'll see more out of him and his students in the future.


Fernando Aranda Peter Williams Jason Leffler Rolles Gracie Mostapha Al Turk Ignazio Giunti Mauro Galvao

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