The Notts mixed martial artist took a judges’ decision win over American welterweight Amir Sadollah, to rapturous cheers from the 7,241 strong crowd at the CapitalFM Arena.
Hardy admitted that he was fighting with his head more than his heart, and trying not to let the crowd noise throw him off his gameplan.
“The old Dan Hardy got knocked out by Carlos Condit. There was a point in the first round when I hard the crowd chanting my name and wanted to stand and trade punches, but I needed to let that pass and be a bit smarter.”
“I’m working hard to improve and if I let emotions get the best of me then technique goes out the window.”
“It was a special night.”
UFC supremo Dana White was impressed with the Nottingham man’s performance, adding: “He looked like a mixed martial artist tonight, and not just a kickboxer.”
The first round saw Sadollah the busier of the two fighters, using his front kick, leg kicks and boxing to keep Hardy on the outside.
A more aggressive Hardy came out in the second round, landing first and then hitting a takedown, to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Sadollah fought his way back to his feet, but towards the end of the round he was on his back again as Hardy looked for ground and pound and avoided a submission attempt.
The American, bloodied, was well in contention going into the third, but another Hardy takedown and some heavy elbows gave the Notts man the momentum.
Earlier his compatriot Brad Pickett had the crowd in raptures with a beautiful uppercut, living up to his ‘One Punch’ monicker and knocking Canada’s Yves Jabouin out cold in round one.
In the main event 7ft Dutchman Stefan Struve knocked out Stipe Miocic after chasing his man down and pressuring him with straight punches.
There was a huge shock for the packed NIC arena when American Matt Wiman caught Liverpudlian submission expert Paul Sass in an armbar in round one and forced a tap.
The all-British welterweight battle between John Maguire and John Hathaway failed to ignite the crowd as Hathaway dictated the pace without ever looking likely to finish his opponent.
Maguire did hit a takedown in the third round and looked to work, but it was too little too late and he lost to a unanimous decision.
The first home fighter on the card was Jason Young, the featherweight opening the event against Robbie Peralta.
But early in the first round the American landed a huge bodyshot, followed by a right hook and a few shots on the ground had Young out cold on the canvas.
Icelandic prodigy Gunnar Nelson made his UFC debut with a trademark rear naked choke victory over DaMarques Johnson in their catchweight bout.
English middleweight Tom Watson had a disappointing first fight in the Octagon, losing a split decision to Las Vegas resident Brad Tavares, who used his jab to great effect throughout the fight.
Things got worse for the home crowd when Sunderland’s Andy Ogle was on the wrrong end of a split decision after a tight featherweight clash with Akira Corassani.
But in the final preliminary fight of the night Jimi Manuwa delivered victory, albeit by a referee stoppage between rounds, advised by the doctor.
The light heavyweight Brit landed some brutal punches, knees and a headkick, and before round three commenced Kingsbury couldn’t see out of his left eye.
Although the American had shown incredible heart and durability, and seemed to be turning the fight in his favour with his wrestling, there was to be no third round and Manuwa had his hand raised.
In the evening’s first main card clash, Gloucester welterweight Che Mills took on fellow striker Duane Ludwig in a fight that lasted less than one round.
Mills was dominating his men on the ground, but when they returned to their feet Ludwig fell clutching his knee and referee Herb Dean waved the action off, awarding Mills an unfortunate victory.
SLIDESHOW: Click the play button to see event photos. Pictures by Mark Fear.