Greg Hardy may want to compete in empty arenas more often.
The NFL player turned UFC star defeated Yorgan De Castro in Saturday’s UFC 249, the sport’s return after weeks away due to the impact of the coronavirus. The bouts took place at an empty arena in Jacksonville, as it is still not safe for fans to return to stands, but Hardy said the situation worked out well for him.
As the New York Post noted, Hardy said after the fight that the quiet of the arena allowed him to hear the critiques from ringside television announcer Daniel Cormier, adding that he took the criticism to heart and adjusted.
“Thank God for not having the crowd,” Hardy told Joe Rogan after the fight. “Shout out to DC. I heard him tell me to check him, so I started trying to check him. Game changer.”
Though Hardy was an underdog going into the bout, he was able to improve his UFC record to 6-2 since jumping to the sport. His NFL career ended in controversy when he was convicted of domestic violence charges, which were later overturned when the alleged victim would not cooperate on his appeal.
Though Hardy is seen as having the potential to be a top-tier MMA fighter, analysts believe he has a ways to go in sharpening his technique. That was the main criticism from CBS Sports writers Brian Campbell and Brent Bookhouse, who predicted in their UFC 249 preview that Hardy would lose due to his lack of polish, making the in-fight insight from Cormier that much more important.
They noted that “former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy remains so raw from the standpoint of technique and stamina that the possibility of a sloppy affair that crawls to the finish line remains decent.”
“So is the idea that Hardy, despite going the distance in a step-up loss to Alexander Volkov last November, can lose again.”
The UFC is the first major American sport to return since the coronavirus forced all leagues to go on hiatus or, in the case of Major League Baseball, postpone the start of the season. UFC President Dana White has committed to keeping the sport going, moving UFC 249 from Brooklyn to Florida, a state that has permitted sports leagues to be classified as essential businesses so they can remain open. It’s not clear how much longer the events will go on without fans, but that may be all right with Hardy.