Two of the Contender Series’ most intriguing names are one step closer to seeing their potential UFC dreams come true.
Along with women’s flyweight Antonina Shevchenko, the sister of top 125-pound contender Valentina Shevchenko, former NFL player Greg Hardy and congenital amputee Nick Newell are generating plenty of buzz ahead of their Zuffa debuts.
Hardy has won all three of his amateur bouts by first-round knockout. The 29-year-old embarked on an MMA career after his NFL run — which included stints with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys — ended in a shroud of controversy with a domestic violence case and a cocaine possession charge contributing to his exile from the league.
Originally scheduled to fight Brandon Sayles, Hardy will now instead face fellow ex-NFLer Austen Lane. The former Jacksonville Jaguars draft pick is considerably more experienced than Hardy, having compiled a 4-0 professional record and a 4-0 amateur record.
Newell has long campaigned for a chance to compete in the UFC and his Contender Series bout has been scheduled for July 24, with an opponent to be announced. Despite being born with the lower part of his left arm missing, the 32-year-old has won 14 of 15 pro MMA fights, with his only loss coming to current UFC lightweight standout Justin Gaethje.
Fighters who compete and win on the Contender Series are not guaranteed contracts, but Season 1 episodes saw UFC president Dana White typically choose one or two fighters from each episode to reward with a shot at the big show.
Season 2 will air on UFC Fight Pass from June 12-Aug. 7.