The former All-Pro NFL player’s career effectively ended after he was convicted of domestic violence. Now, with the charges expunged, he’s trying to build a new athletic career in the UFC.
The UFC could hardly look more hypocritical with their courting of former NFL pass rusher Greg Hardy. Hardy is set to make his pro debut against fellow former football player Austen Lane on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. And if he can perform well enough there, chances are high that a UFC contract would follow.
Hardy’s NFL career came to a somewhat abrupt end after the 2015 season – just his 6th in the league – and a year after he was convicted of domestic violence charges for the alleged assault of ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. According to her account of the event, Hardy threw her against a bathtub and then onto a futon, where she says he began choking her. Apparently, soon afterward he stopped and told a friend to start filming Holder while he antagonized her to attack him. He then called 9-1-1, claiming to be the victim of assault. Later Hardy would claim Holder’s injuries were self inflicted.
Eventually, Hardy was convicted of domestic violence at a bench trial in 2014. In part due to corroboration of Holder’s testimony from a witness who overheard the event. But, following an appeal to go to a jury trial, the conviction was expunged. Mostly due to Holder’s lack of cooperation with investigators, after a reported settlement with Hardy. A private investigation conducted by the NFL saw him suspended for 10 games, but that was reduced to just four in arbitration. However, due poor performance in his return to the NFL, and a 2016 arrest for cocaine possession, the league washed their hands of him.
All of which is to say that, whatever ultimately ended up on his legal record, Hardy comes to MMA with an infamous reputation. This at the same time that former UFC title contender Nick Diaz is facing his own charges of domestic violence, charges that prompted the release of the following statement:
“UFC is aware of the recent arrest of middleweight athlete, Nick Diaz. The organization does not tolerate domestic violence and requires all athletes to adhere to the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. Every athlete is deserving of due process and this situation, as with any official allegations, will be duly reviewed and thoroughly investigated by an independent party.”
But, with the possibility of signing a supremely gifted NFL caliber athlete – who is still only 29 years old – Dana White sounded a lot less forceful on the UFC’s message during the UFC 225 post-fight presser.
“I guess he had a real bad drug and alcohol problem,” White said, in defense of Hardy. “Started to get into MMA. Cleaned himself up. If you talk to anybody he trains with, male or female, they say that he’s a very good guy. He’s very humble. Everybody deserves a second chance. And the guy was never charged with anything, he was never sentenced or anything like that. We’re going to give him a shot.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s a lot like the statement White gave on the short lived and disastrous re-signing of Thiago Silva. Silva was released from the promotion after being arrested for threatening his ex-wife with a gun – a conflict that ended with Silva barricaded in his house in a stand off with SWAT team officers – but given a new contract with UFC when she failed to appear in court, having left the country. Silva would be released again shortly afterward, when footage emerged showing him stalking around her house threateningly prior to the incident, gun in hand.
That’s the kind of mistake Hardy wants to assure fans and reporters the UFC isn’t making twice. Hardy spoke to MMA Junkie recently, where he expressed his desire for people to get to know him before judging him and his actions (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“Get to know me first,” Hardy said. “Meet me would be a good start. Talk to me, and give me the opportunity that you would give anybody else. Look forward to watching me on TV. Come out and enjoy the event – whether it’s to see me get beat up or to see me excel – and then make a decision or make your opinion and I’ll respect it as a human being. That’s honestly where I have to come from on any platform these days because that’s the reality that I have to live in.”
As for people who may never be able to look at him without seeing the charges of his past, Hardy seems to be diplomatic about their attitude.
“Honestly it’s just the burden that comes with it. Who am I to question fans? These are the people that pay my salary so they have the right to have opinions, they have the right to be who they are. Me being biased towards those people would be me being exactly who they think I am and honestly, that’s not who I am. . .
“There’s a whole lot of levels of understanding when you don’t know a person, when you don’t know any of the facts. But I do understand people do have their own opinions and if you don’t respect people’s opinions, that’s just Hitler-esque.”
And he made it clear that, however his MMA career goes, all the credit for his appearance on the Tuesday Night Contender Series lies directly with Dana White.
“I am here because Dana White is an angel, a saint that gave me the opportunity to come and put my best foot forward. I honestly couldn’t begin to explain why, I can only just express my appreciation and my gratitude for the opportunity to be here and show what kind of athlete I am.”