Former NFL player Greg Hardy has yet to officially debut as a UFC fighter, but he is already exclaiming that he is in the hunt for the heavyweight title.
The former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys player was arrested in 2014 for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. He was found guilty several months later and sentenced to 18 months of probation. Hardy was suspended from the Panthers and by April of 2015 NFL Commissioner Goodell handed Hardy a ten-game suspension. Eventually, the Cowboys refused to resign him claiming he was a disruptive force in the locker room.
While Hardy faced suspensions in the National Football League on suspicion of domestic violence and ultimately washed out as a Dallas Cowboy at the close of the 2015 season, Hardy began to look at a second sports career in the UFC.
With the approval of UFC chief Dana White, Hardy began staging small-time fights in preparation for hitting the official UFC circuit. To gear up for his debut, Hardy staged six amateur fights and easily won all of them.
But the former NFL defensive end also garnered criticism for his career move.
The UFC came under criticism for giving Hardy a shot at becoming a UFC fighter because of his history of domestic violence charges. But as far as White was concerned, Hardy deserved a shot at turning over a new leaf.
In fact, last year White said that Hardy had remade himself. White exclaimed that Hardy had “hit rock bottom” but has surged back to turn his life around.
Finally, Hardy is now set for his first official UFC fight with his debut on ESPN+ 1 in a co-headliner against Allen Crowder to be broadcast on Saturday.
Hardy is already boasting about his budding UFC career, USA Today reports.
“Honestly, at this point, we’re going to fight, we’re going to look for that UFC heavyweight belt,” Hardy told MMAjunkie. “We’re going to go for the Zuffa Boxing title, the WBC (title). I want to be the great American heavyweight. I want to be the fighting heavyweight of the world. America needs one of those, and I can be that guy for them.”
Despite detractors who say that Hardy’s amateur fights were no test of his talents as a fighter, Hardy warns against dismissing them.
“A lot of people forget to mention the three (amateur) fights I had,” Hardy told the media. “I had to travel the country and the circuit just like everyone else. It’s been a total of like six fights, grueling circuits, and just kind of playing my part and knowing my role. It’s helped me appreciate this sport, and I’m appreciative to be here so much more so than I would have.”
The fighter also said he understands the position he is in concerning public perception, too.
“Regardless of who you are and what you do, there’s going to be people that hate you,” Hardy told MMAJunkie. “You’re going to have to deal with things. These are just my burdens and my downfalls. It’s what I have to deal with. It doesn’t bother me, and it’s something I want to face head-on.”
"These are just my burdens, and these are just my downfalls."@GregHardyJr spoke to @MMAjunkieJohn about his past following him, especially as he shares the #UFCBrooklyn card with a recent survivor of domestic abuse.
— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) January 16, 2019
Regardless, Hardy said he “belongs here” and will continue his hunt for a UFC title.
“I live for this. I just can’t wait to get in there. This is what I live for. … We haven’t seen much of (Crowder) other than his film and don’t know much about his story, but he’s a UFC guy. This is my UFC opportunity, so it feels great to me. I’m excited to throw that first punch,” Hardy said.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.