Former NFL defensive lineman Greg Hardy tore his way through the amateur MMA ranks with three consecutive first-round knockouts. The embattled athlete made his successful pro debut on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” when he demolished fellow former NFL player Austen Lane in just 57 seconds.
Afterward, Hardy was awarded with a developmental contract with the UFC and will continue to fight in other organizations under the watchful eye of the UFC while preparing to make his eventual debut for the MMA promotion.
“You see he has power and he’s a big heavyweight but he needs to work more and get more fights,” UFC president Dana White said afterward. “I have a few ideas on what to do with this guy to let him develop. We’ll try to build him up.”
The former Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers defensive end started training MMA in 2016 and announced in October of that year that he’d pursue a career as a mixed martial artist. This came after Hardy was forced out of the NFL after a 2014 domestic violence incident led to a lengthy suspension. With no NFL team interested in taking on the former second-team All-Pro, Hardy turned his attention to MMA.
A 3-0 amateur record with not a single fight making it out of the first round led to Dana White bringing the troubled athlete in for the “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where he could vouch for an opportunity to earn a UFC contract. And judging by his performance where he throttled Lane, a bright future is ahead of him.
The two heavyweights charged at each other full force and tossed heavy leather at one another at a frantic pace. But Hardy would be the first to connect with a huge right hand that crumbled Lane to the canvas. The fight was immediately called off before further punishment ensued.
“It’s still not felling real to me. It feels like a movie,” Hardy said of the victory. “I feel awesome. This is one of the better feelings in the world. It feels like sacking 100 quarterbacks.”
There had been some backlash that Hardy would be given a second chance considering his history of domestic violence and that he was shifting from football to a sport where he punches and kicks people for a living. . The domestic violence incident included Hardy threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, strangling her and throwing her into furniture. He was found guilty in July 2014 of assaulting a female and communicating threats, and was sentenced to 18 months probation, suspending a 60-day jail sentence. Hardy was also arrested for cocaine possession in 2016.
But White said that Hardy deserved a second chance and is aware of what’s at stake.
“The reality is if this guy stays clean for the next 10 years, wins a world title and is one of the greatest mixed martial arts of all time, he’s always going to hear about his past,” White said. “It’s going to follow him for the rest of his life. He’s done everything right so far. He’s paid his dues, hit rock bottom, built himself back up and is trying to make a living. “
As for Hardy, he said that although his dark past is behind him, he knows that it will be attached to his name, regardless of what he accomplishes in the UFC and beyond.
“My message to everybody about my past is that I’m willing to go up against it every day in my life and prove myself in every interview that I do,” Hardy said about dealing with his turbulent history. “I’m human and I make mistakes but I’ll do what I have to do [to win everyone over].”
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