November 12, 2019

Rookie Season Report: Greg Hardy's First Year In the UFC Was More of A Success Than A Failure

By Adam Martin

When the Ultimate Fighting Championship signed former NFL defensive lineman Greg Hardy last year following a successful stint on Dana White's Contender Series, "The Prince of War" immediately became a hot topic in the world of MMA. The former Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers player was an extremely controversial figure in football due to domestic violence incidents off the field. Nevertheless, when he made the transition to MMA and picked up a few quick knockouts, the UFC couldn't resist signing him. And despite Hardy being a lightning rod for criticism, the UFC has gone all-in on him.
The promotion booked Hardy for five fights in 2019, a UFC record for a heavyweight. With less experience than almost any other heavyweight on the UFC roster, Hardy has essentially had to learn on the job, and the results have mostly been mixed, as he has compiled an Octagon record of 2-2 with 1 No Contest. But beyond his mere won-loss record, it's worth asking whether Hardy's first year in the promotion -- his rookie UFC season, if you will -- has been a success. How you answer this question depends what you value.

Let's start with the ways in which Hardy has been successful. The fact that Hardy has taken five fights in less than a year is impressive. And for the most part, despite the .500 record, Hardy has looked pretty good. His first fight, against Allen Crowder, ended in a DQ, but he was competitive until he landed the illegal knee. The back-to-back knockout wins over Dmitrii Smoliakov and Juan Adams were impressive victories. The No Contest with Ben Sosoli was originally a win before being overturned. Hardy easily could have four Octagon wins instead of two. And although he dropped a decision to Alexander Volkov, the fact that he went three rounds with a top-10 heavyweight is impressive in itself.

Hardy's inclusion on the UFC roster has generated plenty of criticism towards the promotion, but he has also generated plenty of media attention, and has drawn plenty of eyeballs to his fights. People tune in to watch Hardy fight, even if they hope he loses. The UFC wants as many eyes on its product as possible, and Hardy generates interest in his fights, so that's a win for the UFC. In that sense, his inclusion on the roster has been a success for the promotion, despite all the negatives it brings with it.

Speaking of the negatives, let's talk about them. First and foremost, Hardy's past. His past can never be separated from his story, even if he does seem like a somewhat changed person. The fact that he is allowed to cash checks from the UFC, given his violent past, is something that will always bother people. Secondly, his fights, and the controversy around them. The Crowder bout was a disqualification due to Hardy landing an illegal knee on a clearly downed opponent. That's not good. And his decision win over Sosoli was overturned and changed to a No Contest due to Hardy illegally using an inhaler in between rounds. Two egregious violations of the rules in five fights; fighters have been labeled "dirty" for less. In many ways, Hardy is the poster boy for everything wrong about the sport, and gives people another reason to hate MMA.

But at the same time, though, Hardy is still a prospect. We're talking about a rookie here, not a seasoned vet, and I can't help but consider Hardy's "rookie season" more of a success than a failure. The UFC is always looking for fresh talent at 265 pounds, and at just 31 years of age, Hardy is one of the youngest heavyweights on the roster. He is still improving and growing every time he fights, and he's looked decent in nearly every outing.

Yes, Greg Hardy brings a lot of negatives to the table, and in many ways, that outweighs the positives for most of us. But when it comes to the actual cagefighting aspect of Hardy's inclusion on the UFC roster, he has shown talent and promise, making him an asset to the promotion. Looking objectively at it, he's been a pretty good rookie for the UFC in 2019. And even though many don't want to admit it, he has the potential to have an even better 2020.

UFC on ESPN+ 21
Alexander Volkov vs. Greg Hardy: Alexander Volkov def. Greg Hardy via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

UFC on ESPN+ 21: Zabit vs. Kattar (formerly UFC on ESPN+ 21: Dos Santos vs. Volkov) took place November 9, 2019 at CSKA Arena in Moscow, Russia.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 21 Post-Fight Analysis


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