Former NFL defensive lineman Greg Hardy had his first pro MMA fight this week, on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, and he defeated fellow former NFL player Austen Lane in 57 seconds via TKO. UFC czar Dana White was in attendance and clearly impressed.
After the fight, Hardy was awarded a developmental contract with the UFC, which will retain his promotional rights while he works on his skills at the lower levels of the sport. Given his athleticism and his impressive showings at the amateur and now professional levels, expect to see Hardy as a heavily promoted rising heavyweight contender on UFC shows within the next year to 18 months.
In September of 2014, while everyone was processing the video of Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée Janay in an elevator, White went on the record and claimed the UFC has no place for fighters who beat women. Via MMA Fighting:
“There’s one thing that you never bounce back from and that’s putting your hands on a woman. Been that way in the UFC since we started here.”
Of course, White has gone back on his claim in the time since then, and not just with Hardy. He’s made excuses for legitimate fighters like Thiago Silva and Anthony Johnson. The only way to make White actually disown a fighter is if they make him look like a fool. Ask Mike Jackson or Ben Askren.
Hardy’s past is very much in the open. When Hardy was with the Carolina Panthers in May of 2014, he was arrested and charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. In November of 2015, Deadspin released photos and documents showing why the former NFL player was arrested, one day after a North Carolina judge expunged Hardy’s record and threw out the case against him. Welcoming Hardy into the UFC fold would seem to clash with White’s policy, but he’s not that stupid.
The reason White is willing to give Hardy a chance is the same reason Hardy’s first pro fight was against another former NFL player: It makes for a good hook. Regardless of the division of the UFC’s audience between people who believe Hardy deserves another chance and people who want to see Hardy get what’s coming to him, they’re all watching. It’s a gross, exploitative tactic, but it’s not below White, a morally bankrupt goon who underpays fighters and should, if there is justice in the world, get slapped with a class-action injury lawsuit some time in the next 10 years.
White only gives a shit about money and until Hardy proves he’s not worth it—he does only have one pro fight under his belt, after all—the UFC’s fat, sweaty head will, when not boasting about how he’ll show “no mercy” if Hardy steps out of line, rave about the fighter’s talent and sell him as a redemption story. That’s just what he did today on TMZ, even if all Hardy has actually done since he was pushed out of the NFL is (mostly) stay out of the news and find a legal way to hurt people:
What I respect about the guy is he did something really bad and horrible. He went through everything you need to go through after you do something disgusting like that. Then, he hit rock bottom, picked himself back up, started to work his way up to become not only a better human being but a better athlete.
For his purposes and to please his masters at WME-IMG and ESPN, Dana White only cares about the latter part anyway.