Wearing sunglasses and a dour expression, heavyweight Greg Hardy felt a little bit of deja vu after his UFC on ESPN 6 fight against Ben Sosoli.
Again, a night that was supposed to move him up the UFC ladder – and prove to the world he was more than a headline sideshow – had ended in controversy.
A Ventolin albuterol inhaler he used between rounds to curb what he said was lifelong exercise-induced asthma was, in fact, illegal. As a result, the UFC announced his lackluster win over Ben Sosoli was overturned to a no-contest.
“It clears the airway so I’m able to breathe,” Hardy said of the breathing aid. “It doesn’t help me breathe better. It helps me breathe just like you – pretty much evens the playing field.”
Hardy thought he’d been cleared by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency – which he embraced “so that y’all know that I’m not taking steroids, and I’m just naturally a monster” – only to hear his win had been nullified.
”I’m just worried about what my boss thinks,” said Hardy, who was disqualified from his octagon debut for an illegal knee. “The worst part for me is, here I am letting people down again. It’s a sucky feeling, dude.”
The boss, UFC President Dana White, was incredulous that Hardy, his corner and coach Din Thomas, or an MSAC inspector that allegedly approved the inhaler, could ever think that anything other than water would be OK to ingest during the fight.
“His corner, they’ve got to know you can’t use an inhaler in the corner,” White said. “They should know that. Shouldn’t even be a question.”
Since his entry into the UFC, Hardy has promoted himself as a company man, so another drama-filled ending muted most of the pride in his performance against Sosoli.
”The first 15-minute rounds that I’ve ever done,” he said. “I just fought more time than I’ve ever fought my whole entire career, and we’re sitting here talking about an inhaler that I’ve used my whole entire life. That’s a crappy feeling, dude.
”I never want to take away from the UFC brand. I never want to take away from anybody’s shine, and I think that’s what’s happening, and I’m not OK with it.”
While the win he initially earned quickly slipped through his fingers, Hardy wasn’t sure where he stood with White. But maybe those sunglasses were rose-colored, because he suggested the whole thing might just blow over.
”I’m a worker,” he said. “I’m supposed to do my job. I’m not sure if I did yet. So until that comes down, the crowd’s out. I hope that he can forgive me and look over it and be happy with the show I put on. I hope everything in retrospect turns out to be one of the best shows Boston has ever seen.”
It wasn’t, if the audience’s response could be interpreted as anything other than a verbal thumbs-down. Always planning his next move, Hardy vowed to work out that problem.
”I hate when people boo,” he said. “I hate when people want action and I can’t give it to them. So we’re going to analyze and figure out how to pick the pace up intelligently, instead of going out there all wild.”
Hardy praised Sosoli’s toughness and said he’d been hit harder than any of his previous fights. That wasn’t hard to imagine given that most of them ended inside one round. Just the fact that the bout went the distance was something of a victory for Hardy.
A newcomer who’s been a lightning rod for criticism from the moment he’s stepped into the octagon, the former NFLer resolved to stay somewhat positive.
”Tonight, what I take out of it was this was a great process for me,” he said. “I got to move around, I got to go through 15 minutes and experience and show a lot of people that, hey, we had a plan. We stuck to the plan. I’m an educated fighter, and I’m learning faster than anyone else in the business.
”I’m super proud of my team. I’m happy all around with the performance. I’m ready to watch the film and get better. I’m still a rookie, so more to fix. More to analyze.”