Monday, July 21, 2008

Hartt to realize dream tonight with UFC fight

By Andrew Neff
Saturday, July 19, 2008 - Bangor Daily News (

A little more than five weeks ago, Dale Hartt was still a man striving to realize a lifelong dream.

Saturday night, the 29-year-old Bangor man will likely be somewhat battered, probably bloodied, likely fatigued and maybe even injured, but he’ll be living that dream.

Hartt will step into the cage for the first time as a professional mixed martial arts fighter under the auspices of the Ultimate Fighting Championship as a combatant in one of the UFC Fight Night undercard fights at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.

"I feel like it’s been a 29-year quest for me. I feel like since the day I was born I was meant to fight," said Hartt. "This fight is validation for a lot of blood, sweat and broken bones.

"I’ve endured my family telling me for six years to get a job and stop training, my ex-wife telling me [to choose] her or fighting, and six years of poverty. It’s been worth it and then some."

Hartt’s not overstating things. His quest has cost him a lucrative job as a financial manager, a marriage and some family relationships. Given all that, asking him about his approach to fighting Shannon Gugerty in the 155-pound lightweight class bout is almost unnecessary.

"I think I’m just going to fight hard," Hartt said matter-of-factly. "Honestly, I’m planning on doing what I always do: Put my nose down, go forward, and bring the heat.

"I just want it to be a battle of wills because I’ll win that. Nobody wants to win it more than I do."

So how does a financial economics degree holder from the University of North Florida, former varsity ice hockey player at Franklin Pierce College, and former United States Navy communications officer and electrician decide to become a professional fighter?

"This has been my dream since 1991, when I watched UFC1 at a friend’s house," said the Hampden Academy alumnus (Class of 1997). "I thought it was going to be like pro wrestling. I was kind of half watching it, but then I saw a kick boxer fight a sumo wrestler named Teila Tuli. After I saw Tuli’s tooth flying out of his mouth, I grabbed a chair and sat with my face about six inches from the TV and never took my eyes off it until it was all over."

The 5-foot-11, 168-pound Hartt started seriously training for a fighting career 15 years ago and has extensive training in Ju-Jitsu. He’s 5-0 in five mixed martial arts fights since turning pro in 2004.

"I would have liked to have a few more fights under my belt, but when the UFC calls, you answer," said Hartt, who signed a non-guaranteed, four-fight contract with UFC.

Hartt, who has won all but one of his fights in the opening round, is ranked No. 1 in New England by Massachusetts MMA (

"I’ve pretty much just been decimating people in Mass.," Hartt said. "None of my fights have gone into the third round and only one went into the second. I’ve broken two orbital bones and three noses."

That’s not to say Hartt has gone injury-free. He had to have his anterior labrum (shoulder) repaired and had to spend a couple of months rehabilitating.

"That’s the only time I wasn’t able to train for the last four years. I was in a cast for a month and completely immobile," he said. "I got that from a fight. I got slammed on my head four times in a row and the injury started happening when I was in training and my shoulder went out."

That didn’t prevent Hartt from going ahead with a scheduled fight.

"I knocked a guy named Matt Lee out and then had surgery the next day," he said. "He was talking crap about me so I couldn’t back out."

He won’t be backing out Saturday night, either. Not that he’d want to turn his back on $3,000 for fighting, another $3,000 for a win, possible endorsement money and deals, which would come his way after a victory, and exposure. Saturday’s UFC card will air live nationally for the first time on Spike Network-TV at 9 p.m.

Ironically, it was Spike that had a taped-up hand in Hartt getting his big break with the UFC.

"They flew me to Vegas to try out for the Ultimate Fighter reality show," he explained. "I didn’t make the cut because they said I was too nice, but I guess I made a good impression."

That was back in April. Two months ago, agents started calling Hartt out of the blue, asking to represent him, leading Hartt to believe he might have a shot to sign with the UFC. He signed on with one and a little more than a month ago, he was in.

"I found out on a Wednesday, signed Thursday, and left my son and girlfriend to train in Boston on Monday," said Hartt, an only child who credits girlfriend Ashley Joler and his 1½-month-old son Orion for inspiration and support.

There aren’t many people Hartt can say that about as his career choice has alienated him somewhat from his family.

"My uncle [Tim Dysart] and grandmother [Irene Dysart] are my biggest backers, but some of my family doesn’t support me at all," Hartt explained. "I love both my grandmothers, but [Irene] and I have a special relationship.

"I don’t know if she’ll watch or not. She says I’m too pretty and thinks I’ll get brain damage, but I think a lot of my family thinks I have brain damage already."

Joler will attend the fight, as will fellow Bangor native Marcus Davis, a pro and UFC fighter who appeared in a past seasons of the Ultimate Fighter TV series. Davis, who owns a gym and has helped train Hartt, will be Hartt’s corner man for the fight.

Since arriving in Las Vegas Monday, Hartt has been concentrating on mental preparation, rest and relaxation. His only concern was cutting 13 pounds off to make Friday’s weigh-in.

"The hard work’s done. Right now is kind of my taper-down time because I’m kind of beat up from training," he explained. "Most of what I’m doing right now is sharpening up the mental game."

It doesn’t sound like that will take much time.

"I haven’t had a lot of anxiety and pressure leading up to this. I’m just really excited to fight," he said. "I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to fight.



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