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Former NFL player Greg Hardy will return to MMA cage before the end of the year

DWTNCS LLC via Getty Images

Greg Hardy is getting one more fight in before the end of 2018.

The controversial former NFL player will compete Dec. 21 under the Island Fights banner at an event in Pensacola, Fla., MMA Fighting confirmed Wednesday with sources. ESPN was the first to report the news.

The card will air live on UFC Fight Pass. Hardy does not yet have an opponent named and there is no venue set yet.

Hardy (3-0) has won all three of his pro MMA fights — all this year — by first-round knockout or TKO. The Tennessee native is coming off a 53-second KO of Rasheem Jones at Xtreme Fight 352 in September. Hardy, 30, debuted professionally on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in June, knocking out Austen Lane in 57 seconds. That victory earned him a development contract with the UFC.

The former defensive end is one of the best heavyweight prospects to come into MMA in a long time. He also won all three of his amateur fights by first-round stoppage.

A former All-Pro with the Carolina Panthers, Hardy does not come without baggage. Hardy, who now trains at American Top Team in Florida, was convicted on domestic violence charges in 2014, a case that was dropped on appeal when the alleged victim did not appear in court to testify.

Hardy was initially suspended 10 games by the NFL, which was reduced to four in arbitration. The domestic violence charges were expunged from his record in 2015, but an NFL investigation concluded he used physical force on at least four instances related to those charges.

If Hardy is able to win impressively in December, it’s very likely that he’ll get a shot on the UFC’s main roster. UFC president Dana White has said it’s about giving him a second chance.

“The guy has changed his life around,” White said after Hardy’s Contender Series win in August. “This is his second chance. He’s been excellent to deal with. Everybody who has come in contact with him since he’s been with us has said nothing but good [things] about him. The guy made a mistake. You’re always gonna have the freaks that have nothing better to do and this and that and somebody has a cause.

“What the guy did was horrible. He has a second chance here. He turned his life around. He got off drugs, he got off alcohol. He hit rock bottom and built himself back up. What do they want the guy to do? He should never work again? He should never do anything again? Life doesn’t work that way.”

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