“I remained in the game in the sense that I’m a boxing coach, and every now and then, I’d put my headgear on and play with them and frustrate them in the backyards of our apartment buildings,” she said. “I’d line them all up, do the ‘smell my glove’ trick and frustrate the s**t out of them. (Laughs) And I’d realize, you still got it, Heat. But beyond the love of boxing, there’s the want and that push that brings you over the hump of training. Working a nine to ten-hour day and still getting up at 5 o’clock to train. We’re there at 5am for sparring, I’m running at 5:45 when it’s still dark out, just so I can have my full day of training and a full day of work. That’s the heart, that’s the love. Do I love it that much? That’s what I’m hoping this fight will tell me.”

This fight, against Montreal’s Camara, isn’t an easy one, but taking easy fights has never been Hardy’s thing, even after a year and a half away from the sport. It’s why people still care and why they’re going to tune in whenever she’s on the card. And who knows, maybe this move to 135 is the start of something that may lead to a long-awaited fight with undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor becoming a reality.

“Of course, I still want that fight; anybody would want that fight, but Katie gets to decide,” said Hardy. “Katie gets to pick the biggest fighters, and I’m coming off a loss, so I’m not the one saying, ‘I deserve this fight,’ because I kinda lost my standing and position. I can play the Brooklyn-Irish card and hope they call me for a fight out there (Laughs), but it’s not a good look for me to be saying, ‘I should fight Katie.’”

Maybe that’s the real appeal of Hardy. No nonsense, honest, and fittingly, as she makes her debut on FIGHT PASS, she’s the epitome of the UFC’s tagline, “As real as it gets.” That’s Heather Hardy, who is going to be honest with herself following the Camara fight when it comes to her fistic future.

“This isn’t really the kind of sport where you can go in without your heart, and that’s why I know that if I’m gonna step up against the big dogs with the titles, the six figures, the expectations, then I gotta really make sure that my heart and my body and my mind are into it,” she said. “That’s exactly what this test is for me. In the back of my head, I feel like, what if I already passed my prime and I’m one of those fighters that should have hung it up when they did? That’s what this fight is there to show me. Do I still have the dog in me?”

She laughs.

“I think yes. I don’t think the dog goes away.”