Not long ago, Greg Hardy was essentially banished from the game he loved as the Pro Bowl defensive end in his prime was no longer accepted by any team in the NFL. Now, he is working to finalize a deal that will give him a fresh start in a new career with the UFC.
It’s been three years since the 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive end last played for the Dallas Cowboys. Controversy surrounded him following domestic violence charges. His production started to fade, and he never played another down in the league following the 2015 season.
On Wednesday, UFC President Dana White told ESPN the MMA giant is close to finalizing a deal to have Hardy make his UFC debut against Allen Crowder at UFC Fight Night on January 19 in Brooklyn, New York.
It will be the first card on UFC’s new five-year deal with ESPN+.
Hardy, originally from Millington, Tennessee, has been as dominant in his brief mixed martial arts career in 2018 as he was on the gridiron. He defeated Austen Lane by knockout in 57 seconds at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series 9 in June, won by TKO in 17 seconds against Tebaris Gordon at the White’s TNC Series 16 in August, and knocked out Rasheem Jones in 53 seconds at Xtreme Fight Night 32 in September.
That’s three fights, three first-round wins, and none of them even lasted one minutes to start his professional career. No wonder Hardy got the call up to UFC so early.
Of course, this has its own controversy, too, especially considering Hardy’s past. The card also features Rachael Ostovich, whose husband is facing assault charges for allegedly beating her last month, against Paige VanZant.
After a career riddled by injuries at Ole Miss, Hardy was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. He enjoyed a promising start to his career, including a 2013 Pro Bowl selection after registering 15 sacks, and everything looked like he was going to be a high-paid star in the NFL for years to come.
Then, it all came crashing down. Hardy was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, which he was sentenced 18 months probation and suspended 10 games by the NFL.
The domestic violence charges were later dropped and expunged from his record after the victim failed to appear in court to testify, but it is an incident he will likely never be able to recover or escape from in the eyes of the league and the general public.
The Dallas Cowboys gave Hardy a second chance to play again in 2015, where he played and started in 12 games after his suspension was reduced to four games. He recorded 35 tackles, six sack, a forced fumble and the only interception of his career. But Hardy, who finished with 238 tackles, 40.0 sacks and eight forced fumbles in his football career never played in the league again after that season.
It appears former NFL star Greg Hardy has found success in MMA and a promising UFC debut against Crowder is yet another step to putting the past behind him.