On Saturday night at UFC Fort Lauderdale, controversial fighter Greg Hardy picked up his first win in the UFC, knocking out an overmatched Dmitry Smoliakov in 2:15 of the first round. It was a vast improvement over his UFC debut - a DQ loss to Allen Crowder stemming from a blatantly illegal knee strike - even if it did come against an opponent Dana White went on to publicly shame after the bout for looking terrified to be in there. And with his first win under his belt, Hardy says the sky is the limit for him in the UFC.
“I’m reaching heights that I’ve never reached before,” Hardy said at the post-fight press conference. “I’ve been alongside titans for my whole life. Michael Orr, Greg Oden, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, I played against these guys in college. Tom Brady, Cam Newton, these guys are titans, these guys are monsters in the game. So to come over here and transition to a place where “titan” isn’t the right justification for what these guys are, it’s amazing. And I just don’t think these heights have been reached yet.
“This is gonna make Bo Jackson look like a joke. I’m the fights sports’ athlete version of what [Michael] Jordan could be. This is just getting started. We’re scratching the surface, basically.”
This kind of braggadocio is nothing new to Hardy. Before embarking on his MMA journey, Hardy was a successful collegiate and professional athlete. Hardy played both basketball and football at Ole Miss University before becoming an elite defensive end in the NFL. Before the 2013 season, Hardy famously said his goal for the year was to record 50 sacks, which would more than double the current individual season record. He ended up with 15 and was named to the Pro Bowl. It was the peak of his football life though, as shortly afterwards a domestic violence case upended his playing career and Hardy never recovered. That domestic violence case still hangs over Hardy as he has transitioned into MMA and though Hardy admits he knows he’s still not a beloved figure, he says it doesn’t bother him because he’s there for the people who do love him.
“If you really listen, there’s less and less boos,” Hardy said. “All I hear is the crowd. All I hear is the people that appreciate me. People are gonna boo. It happens. But all I heard was cheers. I heard people that love me, I heard my crowd, my fans, the people that I’ve embraced came down here, been living here for two, three years accept me and enjoy what I put out.
“That was my favorite part of it. That was the best feeling, just to know that they enjoy what I put out.”
So far what Hardy has put out has been severe violence. In eight amateur and professional fights, Hardy has knocked out seven of his opponents in a combined time of 6 minutes and 44 seconds. He’s just at the start of his MMA career but all indications so far are that Hardy does have a future in the upper echelons of this sport. After all, less talented athletes have thrived in the heavyweight division for years, and Hardy is among the best athletes currently competing in the sport. He’s also training at one of the sports’ best camps in American Top Team, and the combination of those two factors has Hardy plotting for his eventual arrival to the top of the division, including bouts against Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis somewhere down the line.
“They’re not in my mind, they’re in my sights,” Hardy told TMZ Sports when they asked him about Miocic and Lewis recently. “They’re locked in. They haven’t gone anywhere. With all due time. There’s two aspects that play into it. I want to earn this, for one, so all these loud mouths talking like ‘Oh Greg doesn’t deserve blah blah blah,’ Yeah I do, because I earned it. I worked my way up to here.
“Secondly, because I’m not ready. It’s like throwing a cub in there with some lions. It just doesn’t make sense. So when I go there and I do fight these guys- hopefully soon enough when I do elevate and graduate - it’s gonna be goliath vs. goliath. A war to be witnessed and loved and cherished forever and all through time.”
That’s good news for Derrick Lewis who has been vocal about wanting to knock out Hardy in the past. A few more wins for Hardy and both sides may get their wish.
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UFC Fort Lauderdale post-fight press conference.
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SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Conor admitting he’s not ready to walk away.
I hear you but I love it dearly. If I am being honest with myself I don’t think I will ever be able to fully walk away from fighting.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 28, 2019
We are all fighters in this world and each of us will be fighting for the rest of our time here. So why not do it live on PPV baby. Pop a bottle! https://t.co/5C5w2Awis7
My goal is not to hurt someone, it’s to do a thing that hurts someone, is incredible mental gymnastics.
This is one of the realest interviews I've ever heard. I've always said to my family, "when I step into the cage, my goal is never to hurt another man. My goal is to hit that man before he hits me and avoid taking the greater damage. I don't fight for violence it's my career!" https://t.co/II3GdakhNw— Corey Anderson UFC (@CoreyA_MMA) April 28, 2019
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
1999: Nobuhiko Takada submitted Mark Coleman with a heel hook at Pride 5 in a fight Coleman has since admitted was a worked bout.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
How will Greg Hardy’s UFC career pan out?
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Sticks around but never excels
Future top-10 guy