Greg Hardy has his hands wrapped before competing on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series

Greg Hardy’s intentions are not to be mistaken. The former NFL star is not at all interested in winning a popularity contest; he’s solely focused on winning fights and being the best mixed martial artist that he can be.

Hardy (3-1) made his UFC debut in January this year, appearing in the co-main event slot of the first-ever UFC on ESPN+ fight card. It was supposed to be a breakthrough moment for Hardy, who was stepping into his bout with Allen Crowder after three incredibly quick knockout victories. As such, the bookmakers regarded Hardy as a heavy betting favorite for his debut fight with the promotion.

However, Hardy was dragged into the second round for the first time in his short career and made a crucial mistake. After perfectly defending a takedown attempt from Crowder, Hardy then rammed his right knee into the side of his grounded opponent’s head – a technique that is illegal in mixed martial arts competitions. Crowder was unable to continue fighting, and Hardy was disqualified from the bout.

Speaking with Michael Fiedel of The Body Lock, Hardy explained that the mistake was mostly a result of fatigue.

“At the time it was fatigue, a little bit. I’mma fight for a hundred rounds if I have to, that’s just the football mentality. But you know, I found out as I was going forward, in the second round your mind starts to work differently when you get fatigued. I thought it was a good strike. I saw his hand come up; you can watch it, see what happens. But it was a misjudgment on my part. You know, you’re thinking finish, and you finish sometimes.”

Despite the unfortunate ending, Hardy still feels as though he has extracted plenty of value from his debut with the promotion.

“I think it was a good fight. I’ve got a lot of stuff to learn; I made a lot of mistakes. But you know, as far as learning experiences go, I think that was really good. I got to go into the second round for the first time.”

A ‘will-win’ situation against Dmitry Smolyakov

Greg Hardy will have an opportunity to get his first win in the UFC on April 27. He’s scheduled to face Dmitry Smolyakov (9-2) in a three-round bout at UFC on ESPN 3.

Smolyakov will be returning to UFC competition for the first time in 27 months. The 34-year-old Russian first joined the UFC in July 2016 and proceeded to lose his two initial bouts with the promotion. He most recently competed at Kaliningrad Challenge, a regional mixed martial arts promotion in Russia, where he returned to winning ways with a first-round kimura submission victory.

Asked whether he considered his upcoming bout with Dmitry Smolyakov to be a must-win scenario, Hardy responded by stating that “there’s no such thing as must-win.”

“This is a sport; it’s all about moving forward and making the best out of what you got. And right now I think it’s a ‘will-win’ for me. I think it’s a for sure, ‘can-win.’ Like I said, we train at the best gym in the world. I don’t think my last fight was a loss if you’re trying to score it. I just think you’ve got to add on to that, eliminate some of the mistakes and it’s going to be the next step into heavyweight history for me.”

Winning fights, not winning people over

Hardy’s entry to the UFC raised the eyebrows of many fans around the world considering his previous involvement in a domestic violence incident in 2014.

The mere fact that Hardy was given a platform on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, long before even officially joining the UFC’s roster, was enough reason for many critics to speak out.

When asked about his controversial past, Hardy shared that he isn’t interested in discussing that version of the past.

“We’re talking about pro bowls and sacks. We’re talking about, let’s see, three All-Americans when we talk about past, you know, we’re not talking about any more pasts other than those. We’re talking about, you know, trying to be one of the most phenomenal athletes that ever lived. We’re crossing over, so that’s what we do when we’re talking about the past these days.”

Regardless, fans continue to be reminded of Hardy’s past. When asked about how he is perceived by the public and what steps he may take to win critics over, Hardy explains that winning people over isn’t a priority of his.

“I would say I’m not here to win people over, I’m here to win fights. My fans have always been with me, and if they stick with me, they’re going to get what they always got… my whole heart and one of the best guys in the business. For new fans, go with what you see and what you hear… from me.”

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