Dana White is well aware of Greg Hardy’s checkered past, but the UFC boss believes the NFL veteran deserves a chance to rebuild his life.
“The reality is, if this guy stays clean for the next 10 years, goes on to win a world title, becomes one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever live, he’s always going to be looked at – he’s always going to hear it,” White told MMAjunkie following Dana White’s Contender Series 9 on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. “That’s always going to be in the story that’s written about him. Other opponents he fights are going to call him a woman beater. That’s going follow him for the rest of his life. You don’t shed that. That stays with you forever, and he’s done all the things right so far.
“The guy paid his dues. He hit rock bottom. He built himself back up, and the guy’s out there just trying to make a life and a living.”
Hardy (1-0) is a former NFL All-Pro defensive end who recently moved into the MMA world. He won three amateur fights before making his pro debut at Dana White’s Contender Series 9. It was a short night of work, because Hardy steamrolled Austen Lane for a knockout in a mere 57 seconds.
The impressive win only magnified Hardy and his past, though. The 29-year-old was convicted for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in July 2014, only to have the charges dropped after the alleged victim refused to testify in his appeal.
Reactions to Hardy’s win were mixed, and nearly all of them came with some sort of commentary about his conviction. White said he’s aware that part of Hardy’s life will forever be part of the conversation, but he’s comfortable providing a platform for a new opportunity.
“People always make mistakes, and the thing about making mistakes is, how do you recover from that? How do you act after you’ve done something bad?” White said. “This guy has paid his dues, and like I said, he hit rock bottom. He built himself back up, he’s going out there, and he’s fighting in these amateur fights where he doesn’t get paid. Now he came here, and I think he made $10,000 and $10,000. He’s working his way back up the ladder. He’s doing the right things. He’s off drugs, he’s off alcohol, and he’s trying to change his life.
“You can point the finger at a guy all you want, but you can’t look down at a guy for trying to turn his life around and trying to be a better person. And I believe that’s what he’s doing.”
Although he’s taking a risk in providing Hardy with a platform, White said Hardy will remain under the microscope, and even the smallest of errors will be noticed.
“He’s the type of athlete, and he’s the type of guy that, if he does anything wrong, there will be no mercy for him,” White said. “I mean, everybody’s going to jump on him. You talk to the people in his camp, they love the guy. Men and women. They think he’s a great guy and a guy who (was) probably doing drugs, drinking and made a big mistake.”
Going forward, it doesn’t appear Hardy will make his official UFC debut anytime soon. He has just one pro fight, after all, and White said he wants to see Hardy gain some more experience before taking on the UFC heavyweight division, which includes some of the most experienced fighters in the sport.
White has a tentative plan in mind for Hardy’s developmental stage, though, but it remains to be seen exactly how it will play out.
“The way I see it is, what I would love to do, in a perfect world, this is not what I’m doing, but in a perfect world this is what I would like to do,” White said. “If he can turn around and come back, I would like to have him fight on the last episode of the Contender Series. Then I would like to put him on a bunch of ‘Looking For A Fight’ cards, get him some experience and then we’ll decide when we think he’s ready for the UFC.
“If you see him, you see that he has power. He’s a big heavyweight. He needs to work more. He needs to get some more fights. We’ve done deals where, for example, Cyborg was under contract with the UFC but fought in Invicta. Alexa Grasso was under contract with the UFC. Mackenzie Dern was under contract with the UFC and fought in other places. I have a few ideas of what to do with this guy and let him develop. He’s with a great team already, he’s training with great guys. They say he’s a hard worker. They say all positive things about him out of that gym. We’ll try to build him up and see what he can do.”