Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy’s mixed martial arts career is off to a hot start, as he won his professional MMA debut on Tuesday and was signed by the UFC to a developmental contract. Yet he still remains shrouded by controversy years after he faced allegations of domestic abuse that got him suspended by the NFL.
According to Sports Illustrated, Hardy got his big UFC break after he quickly defeated fellow ex-NFL player Austen Lane, knocking him out in 57 seconds with a two-punch combination that included a powerful right hand that sent Lane to his knees. Both Hardy and Lane were at the NFL combine in 2010 ahead of that year’s draft, with Lane getting picked in the fifth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Carolina Panthers selecting Hardy in the sixth round.
“I’m ready for the big show,” said Hardy, as quoted by MMA Junkie.
“I love the opportunity. I train at the best gym in the world, and I have full confidence and faith that those guys are there to get me ready for whatever comes next.”
Greg Hardy is reportedly signed to a developmental deal that would allow him to “progress at his own pace,” Sports Illustrated wrote. Hardy made his pro MMA debut mere months after he took part in his first amateur fight in November, which he also won via first-round knockout.
Hardy’s move to the UFC earned a lot of controversy due to the events that many believe led to the premature end of his pro football career. As one of the NFL’s top defensive ends for the Panthers, Hardy had a combined 26 sacks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons before he missed all but the first game of the next season. This was due to Hardy’s May 2014 arrest, where he was accused of physically assaulting an ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her, and not allowed to take part in any football-related activities pending the resolution of his case.
According to the NFL’s website, Hardy served a four-game league suspension in 2015 for violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy before seeing his final pro football action with the Dallas Cowboys.
Commenting on the possibility that other fighters might call out Greg Hardy for being a “woman beater,” UFC President Dana White told ESPN said that the past allegations are something Hardy will have to live with, but stressed that the 29-year-old ex-NFL star has turned his life around, kicked his vices, learned from his mistakes, and is now willing to work hard to carve a niche in the world of mixed martial arts.
“The guy paid his dues, he hit rock bottom, he built himself back up, and the guy’s [now] trying to make a life and a living.”
White, however, warned that even if Greg Hardy is respected by the people in his camp, there will be “no mercy” in the event of misconduct.