Former NFL player Greg Hardy made his professional MMA debut and earned a UFC developmental contract on the second season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Hardy’s debut in a show where he was vying for a contract with the world’s largest MMA promotion was heavily criticized due to his controversial past. The athlete was convicted for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in 2014, but the charges were dropped after the victim refused to testify in his appeal. Hardy’s has had alcohol and drug problems as well that got him in more legal issues in the past.
When asked about Hardy’s controversial past, UFC president Dana White responded in a media scrum on Tuesday night (video courtesy MMAjunkie.com).
“He’s the type of athlete, and he’s the type of guy that, if he does anything wrong, there will be no mercy for him,” White said. “I mean, everybody’s going to jump on him. You talk to the people in his camp, they love the guy. Men and women. They think he’s a great guy and a guy who (was) probably doing drugs, drinking and made a big mistake.”
Hardy had three amateur fights before his professional debut Tuesday night, all with finishes by knockout in the first round. In his debut, Hardy took some combinations from opponent Austen Lane, and near the first minute of the round, he dropped Lane to one knee with a vicious right hook, and then knocked him out to secure his first victory in the Octagon. The knockout impressed the UFC president and matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard.
“I’m ready for the big show,” Hardy said in his post-fight interview. “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.”
White hinted that Hardy’s contract would be of a developmental nature, in order for the fighter to get some additional experience before making his official UFC debut.
“We’ve talked about some ideas to help this guy grow. He’s already with a great team, he’s with Dan Lambert and his crew down in Florida [at American Top Team]. He’s in the right place as far as training and learning, and now he just needs some experience, and we could do that, too.” White said.
The UFC boss elaborated on that plan further in the post-fight scrum.
“If he can turn around and come back, I would like to have him fight on the last episode of the Contender Series. Then I would like to put him on a bunch of ‘Looking For A Fight’ cards, get him some experience and then we’ll decide when we think he’s ready for the UFC,” White said.
“If you see him, you see that he has power. He’s a big heavyweight. He needs to work more. He needs to get some more fights. We’ve done deals where, for example, Cyborg was under contract with the UFC but fought in Invicta. Alexa Grasso was under contract with the UFC. Mackenzie Dern was under contract with the UFC and fought in other places.
Meanwhile, Hardy stated that he wanted to get back to action as soon as possible.
When asked to send a message to those who criticized his transition to MMA, Hardy said, “Just keep watching, I’m going to keep getting better, and I’m going to keep having fun!”