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Before UFC: Greg Hardy’s road from NFL to UFC co-main event

Before UFC: Greg Hardy’s road from NFL to UFC co-main event

Greg Hardy walks away after a first-round KO at Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series

As many fight fans look forward to the UFC’s first event in 2019, headlined by Henry Cejudo defending his flyweight belt against T.J. Dillashaw, they will be going down the fight card and wonder who the one half of the co-headliner Greg Hardy is. It is a valid question to be asked, as he took a higher spot on the card over many established fighters, including Donald Cerrone, Glover Teixeira, and Paige VanZant.

Who is Greg Hardy?

If anyone does know Hardy, it would be from his NFL career. Drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 2010 NFL Draft, Hardy put up impressive numbers for the team and was even designated franchise tag by the team. However, with the finding of guilty in the case of him assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Hardy’s NFL career took a massive turn, where he ended up not getting re-signed by the Panthers, and shortly after, was signed by the Dallas Cowboys.

Though Hardy did have impressive performances for the Cowboys, his lack of discipline off the field and dropping numbers on the field as well lead to the Cowboys deciding to not re-sign him, which opened the doors for him to enter mixed martial arts in 2016.

By racking up an impressive 3-0 record as an amateur in MMA, Hardy was given a chance to fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in 2018, where he won his professional debut by an impressive knockout in just 57 seconds. He was able to get in two more knockout wins over the next three months, with a win he collected at Xtreme Fight Night, and now he waits to make his debut for the UFC on January 19, where he’ll feature in the co-main event.

Hardy is yet to go past the one minute mark in his professional career; all of his finishes have come in less than 57 seconds, with the total time spent in the cage sitting at just 127 seconds over three fights. He will be tasked with fighting Allen Crowder, who also earned his opportunity in the promotion through the Contender Series.

Tale of the tape

Hardy turned professional at the age of 30, less than a year ago. It is by no means an early age to be turning professional in the sport, but what is different about Hardy from most fighters that enter the UFC is that he has a professional background in another sport. He has already competed at the biggest stage of another sport, and since he took his talent to American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, he seems to be continuing to make improvements to his game to put it to test against the best fighters in the world in the UFC.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Hardy is massive even for heavyweight standards and possesses a rare 80-inch reach. With superior athleticism, it makes Hardy extremely difficult to deal with on the feet, especially considering the freakish knockout power that he brings to the table. He has never weighed in at less than 264-pounds in his short professional career, and in the span of three fights, he has shown abilities to not only strike but defend takedowns in his most recent fight against Rasheem Jones.

What we have not seen from Hardy, however, is how he will deal with being in the deep waters in a fight. It is no secret that Hardy’s MMA career has been quite a short one to this point, and most likely, sooner or later he will have to fight into second and third rounds, and whether he can consistently stay as dangerous as he is in the first round, is a question to be answered.

Why you should tune in on January 19

A lot of people may believe that bringing Hardy into the UFC was just another money grab scheme. A big name sports star with a controversial backstory that can not only generate interest from MMA fans but from football fans as well. However, there is more to this than just popularity and money.

Hardy is a legitimate world-class athlete, as proven on multiple grounds. He has real potential to make a splash in the heavyweight division, as long as he continues to make the right moves. This is not just another CM Punk story, where an average athlete is looking to try his luck in another sport.

Despite all of the controversy, the UFC has arguably made matters worse by boosting Hardy into the co-main event slot for this event. The organization has shown their hand; they’re willing to stand by Hardy and his history.

“He’s gonna be tied to [domestic violence allegations] for the rest of his career, the rest of his life,” White explained.

“This is a guy who’s spent the last five years rehabilitating himself from drugs, alcohol, anger management, you name it. Rebuilding his life. He hit rock bottom, he lost his job. He’s building a family now; he has a son and a daughter. He’s trying to put that behind him.”

We’re now facing the likelihood of Hardy featuring in bigger, more prominent spots in the future for the UFC.

But what should not be ignored is the talent aspect of Hardy. With a successful debut for the promotion in two weeks time, it could mean a lot of great matchups in the future for the former NFL star. And the heavyweight division could always use a fresh face to promote. Should Hardy be able to win, in particular in an impressive fashion in his debut, it could mean interesting things for the division in the future.

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