James Hardman’s martial arts training has exposed him to a wide range of styles and techniques. Now, in mixed martial arts competition, he aims to combine everything he knows in the quest for an MMA heavyweight title.
Hardman, 27, a 2005 West High graduate and Tracy resident, is headed to Las Vegas this weekend to take the next step. He will face off against Austin Haggertie of Chico to defend his 3-0 record as a professional MMA fighter.
The bout is one of more than a dozen fights in the “Future Legends 22” event at the Eastside Cannery Casino Hotel on Saturday, including the King of the Cage 145-pound bantam weight title fight. Hardman and Haggertie will fight to take a step up in the King of the Cage heavyweight rankings.
“If all goes well, I’ll get a shot at a No. 1 contender fight,” Hardman said, explaining that a couple more wins would put the King of the Cage heavyweight title in his sights.
“I’m hoping to be one of the first guys from the valley to take it to this level,” he added.
Hardman’s introduction to martial arts came at the age of 7, when he started to learn taekwondo. He went on to play football at West High and was a sprinter and long jumper on the Wolf Pack track and field team.
After graduation, he kept up with martial arts, winning a Golden Gloves boxing title in 2006 and earning a third-degree black belt in taekwondo.
He opened a gym, Beast Mode Fitness, in Stockton in 2010, and plans to open a Tracy gym soon. As a trainer, Hardman saw the potential to advance to higher and more intense levels of martial arts. He helped some friends develop conditioning programs as they trained for fights.
“From there, I got intrigued and went to different gyms for sparring,” he said. “Everybody has pretty much the same training. I’ve been around and have been able to mix it up and make it my own.”
Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4227.