If Avila wants a little inspiration when it comes to fighters returning from an extended hiatus, she need not look any further than her fellow UFC Austin competitor Hardy, who marched into the Octagon after three years and four days on the sidelines and dominated recent TUF winner Juliana Miller in March at UFC 286.
Hardy reached the UFC with an unblemished record back in 2016, but went 1-4 over her first five outings, bouncing between bantamweight and flyweight and never really finding a rhythm. She was 20 years old when she made her short-notice promotional debut, and as we’ve talked about time and again in this space and others, it’s exceptionally difficult to excel at this level in your early 20s.
Hardy is only now in the early stages of her athletic prime at 28, and it was clear in her win over Miller in London that she levelled up her skills in her time away. Having settled in at flyweight and utilizing quality footwork, she thoroughly out-worked Miller in all three rounds to get back into the win column, showcasing quality fundamentals in the striking game and more overall comfort inside the Octagon than she had in the past.