Former NFL star Greg Hardy can now add a mixed martial arts win to his sporting resume.
Hardy made a successful cagefighting debut in an amateur heavyweight bout at the Rise of a Warrior 21 show in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Saturday, knocking out opponent Joe Hawkins in just 32 seconds.
“I had a lot of nerves, but it was good to get ‘em out, it was good to just work through it and be in the ring,” Hardy said in a post-fight interview. “I was glad to compete and be back in a place where I can get it out and go at it.”
The 29-year-old Hardy rose to fame as a standout defensive player in the NFL playing for the Carolina Panthers and then the Dallas Cowboys. In 2014, he was involved in a domestic violence incident that eventually led to his ousting from the league (Hardy received 18 months probation and the charges were later dropped when the alleged victim failed to testify in court).
It has been 20 months since Hardy competed as a professional football player and he was “ecstatic” about getting to perform in front of a crowd again.
“I’ve been humbled a lot the last two years, I’m just super excited to be able to compete, super excited to be back in the arena, super excited to be the Greg Hardy that everybody knows and remembers, give back to my fans and everybody that gave me so much time and respect,” Hardy said.
Since announcing he would try his hand at MMA, Hardy has worked at the American Top Team Gym, home to several UFC fighters including current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Hardy made it clear he plans to join his training partners in the Octagon someday.
“All the way to the UFC, man,” Hardy said. “All the way.”
Watch the footage of Hardy’s fight and his post-fight interview below: