And he likes what he’s seen so far.
The UFC president spoke to the media at the UFC Brooklyn post-fight press conference and was asked several questions about Hardy’s Octagon debut, which served as the event’s co-headliner. A former NFL Pro Bowler, who made headlines first for his on-field accomplishments and then later a highly publicized domestic violence case that played a part in his eventual departure from the league (he was initially found guilty of assault and communicating threats, but saw those charges dropped after an appeal when the alleged victim did not appear in court to testify), Hardy failed to pick up a win on Saturday, losing by disqualification in round two when he threw an illegal knee at a grounded Allen Crowder.
Hardy’s first UFC fight clocked in at just under seven-and-a-half minutes and even though it ended in disappointing fashion, White is convinced that the 30-year-old could have a future in the sport.
“When somebody comes into the UFC, especially when they’re famous, first thing I always want to know is can you really fight?” White said. When you’re fighting on these smaller shows and you’re knocking guys out left and right, it’s great. When you get here, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. And whether you look at Hardy or (debuting flyweight Ariane) Lipski, it’s a different world when you get here. It’s a whole different vibe.
“One thing that I did learn about Hardy tonight: he can fight. He can fight, he’s an athlete. Not only can he punch hard, but he can take a big punch. He got hit with some good shots tonight. His ground game, I think everybody thought if he got taken down to the ground that was going to be the end of him. He got out of trouble on the ground several times and he learned a lot tonight, so we’ll see where he goes from here.”
Prior to joining the UFC proper, Hardy fought three times as an amateur and three times as a professional, winning all six bouts with two of them taking place on White’s Contender Series program. He won his first Contender Series bout via 57-second knockout to earn a developmental contract with the UFC and then picked up two more quick KO victories before being booked for UFC Brooklyn, the promotion’s first-ever show on the ESPN+ streaming service.
Though Hardy was having mixed results before the fight was halted, his elite athletic background and relative inexperience have White is curious as to how he’ll do in his next outing.
“He’ll get another fight,” White said. “He made a really big rookie mistake and it cost him an L tonight, so it ruined his perfect record.”
Seeing as how Hardy was granted the opportunity to be in the co-main event of an important UFC card in just his fourth pro fight, it raised the question of whether officials already had plans for Hardy moving forward.
White insisted that all they were looking at was how Hardy would do in his debut against a level of competition considerably higher than his previous fights.
“No, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” White said. “We’ve seen glimpses from him, he looked good. Like I said, coming in tonight I want to know if you can fight. And it’s no difference between Hardy or Lipski, who was on a nine-fight win streak and was a world champion in another organization.
“I want to see if you can fight. I don’t really know what you can do until I see you here. I’ve seen you in these other places, but I want to see you here. What can you do here?”