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Controversial ex-NFL star Greg Hardy targeted to make UFC debut on first ESPN+ card

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Greg Hardy is officially in the UFC.

After three fast victories to start his pro MMA career, the former NFL star will step into the Octagon for the first time against Allen Crowder on the UFC’s first ESPN+ card Jan. 19 in Brooklyn, sources confirmed with MMA Fighting on Wednesday. ESPN was the first to report the news Tuesday night.

Hardy, 30, has won all three of his pro fights — all this year — by knockout or TKO in less than a minute. Two of those quick stoppages came on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last summer. He is a high-level heavyweight MMA prospect — perhaps one of the best ever due to his incredible athleticism — but comes with a significant amount of baggage.

In 2014, Hardy was convicted on domestic violence charges, a case that was dropped after a Hardy appeal when the alleged victim did not appear in court to testify. Law enforcement was unable to locate her and speculation was that she and Hardy came to a financial settlement agreement.

The accuser testified prior that the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Hardy threw her in the bathroom and later onto a futon filled with guns. She testified that Hardy put his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her. Hardy denied that, saying he never put his hands on her or threatened her, but left the room when the woman became angry he would not have sex with her.

Hardy, a former All-Pro and standout defensive end, was suspended 10 games by the NFL, but that number was reduced to four after arbitration. The domestic violence charges were expunged from his record in 2015, but an NFL investigation concluded that he did use physical force on at least four instances related to those charges.

Hardy, who now trains at American Top Team in Florida, was cut by the Dallas Cowboys in 2016, following a tumultuous season in which he got into it with the team’s head coach and his teammates. He was arrested in November 2016 for cocaine possession and sentenced to two years of probation in March 2017 after a plea deal.

To compound matters, Hardy’s UFC debut will come on the same card in which UFC flyweight fighter Rachael Ostovich will compete. Ostovich was hospitalized last month after an alleged attack from her husband, fellow fighter Arnold Berdon.

Honolulu police said Ostovich, 27, was treated for a fractured orbital bone. Berdon is being charged with second-degree assault, a felony. He pleaded not guilty and will be back in court Dec. 18 for a preliminary hearing. Family members of his told TMZ that Berdon was defending himself in the incident.

Despite the injury, Ostovich was cleared by doctors to fight Paige VanZant on the ESPN+ card Jan. 17. She has written extensively on social media over the last two weeks about wanting to be an advocate for domestic violence victims.

“Although this is a very difficult time for me and my family, I felt that this fight in January was important,” Ostovich told KHON in Hawaii last week. “I felt that it was extremely important to me to follow through with it — not only for me, but first for my daughter and other people that might be going through similar situations. I want to take a stand against domestic violence and show others that it’s OK to come out and speak about it and not be quieted.”

In August, White, the UFC president, said the UFC wanted to give Hardy a “second chance.”

“What the guy did was horrible,” White said. “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.”

In 2017, Hardy admitted he “did do some wrong shit.” He said he was apologetic about what happened, but denies the NFL’s conclusion that he used force against his ex-girlfriend on four occasions.

”Guilty? I mean, the United States of America said I wasn’t,” he said. “But apologetic, most definitely. I’m sorry for anything I did wrong. I never wanted to do anything wrong.”

Hardy addressed his past this past summer at Dana White’s Contender Series. He said most people don’t have an issue with him if they get to know him and he’s setting out to prove “haters” wrong.

“All I can say is, I’ll be worried when they meet me and then they have a problem with me,” Hardy said. “That’s when I need to change something, see God, see my mom, see these people and readjust. But for right now, God bless them. Like I said, keep watching and I’ll keep proving you wrong. I don’t mind the confrontation.”

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