The UFC has dealt with heavy criticism for its decision to book former NFL player Greg Hardy’s Octagon debut on the same event as women’s flyweight Rachael Ostovich.
Ostovich was allegedly assaulted by her husband and fellow MMA fighter Arnold Berdon, who has since pleaded not guilty to assault charges. Hardy was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in 2014, only for those charges to be expunged when the victim failed to appear in court for a jury trial after Hardy appealed his sentence. He has not been on an NFL team since the 2015 season, and has since turned to a career in MMA, with the UFC signing him to a “developmental contract” earlier this year.
Putting a known domestic abuser on a card with an alleged domestic violence victim has caught the attention of major news outlets. After not fielding any questions about Hardy at Wednesday’s UFC 231 press conference, UFC president Dana White spoke to TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter on Thursday about the entire situation.
Dana White discusses the decision to have Greg Hardy compete on January 19th, the same card as Rachael Ostovich, a recent victim of domestic violence.— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) December 6, 2018
White has spoken to Rachael since Hardy was added to hear her feelings on it. Hardy will remain on the card despite the backlash pic.twitter.com/6EHMIXS9lm
“First of all, I called Rachael Ostovich and talked to her and walked her through this situation,” White said. “Her take on it was, ‘His story isn’t my story. Everybody’s story is different, and I believe in second chances. I have no problem fighting on the same card with this guy.’
“He didn’t do anything to Rachael Ostovich, so she was totally cool with it. Having her support was a key factor in making that decision.”
Ostovich, who suffered a broken orbital bone when the alleged attack occurred last month, was initially out of her UFC on ESPN+ 1 bout versus Paige VanZant, but the fight has since been restored. White says Ostovich reached out to him and made her case for being back on the event.
“Rachael was off the card because of what happened,” White said. “Then she called me back – first of all, I wasn’t letting her fight after what had just happened to her. There was no way she could fight right now; she needs to take some time.
“She called me and gave me 75 reasons why she needs to be on this card, and I agreed with her, and so we did it,” he added.
White says he’s “not even thinking” about whether or not Ostovich and Hardy could potentially be doing media together, and seems to have no concerns about the optics of placing them on the same show.
“Listen, if you want to make it an issue, you can make it an issue,” he said. “Everybody can make it an issue if they want to. Rachael Ostovich doesn’t have an issue with it, and that’s all that matters to me.”
As far as Hardy’s future with the company, White once again took the redemption angle for the former Carolina Panther, a decidedly different tone compared to his thoughts on domestic violence four years ago.
“He’s going to be tied to that for the rest of his career, for the rest of his life,” White said. “This is a guy who has spent the last five years rehabilitating himself from drugs, alcohol, anger management, you name it – rebuilding his life. He hit rock bottom, he lost his job, and he’s building a family now. He has a son and a daughter. He’s trying to put that behind him.”
Bronsteter has since tweeted Ostovich’s message to him, saying that “Everything Dana said is true and I think he covered it well.”
A message that I received from @rachaelostovich regarding Dana White's comments from earlier today on her and former NFL player Greg Hardy competing on the same card next month. pic.twitter.com/3THZ50gEpR— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) December 6, 2018
Hardy is slated to face Allen Crowder at UFC on ESPN+ 1 on Saturday, January 19th in Brooklyn, New York.