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Editorial: Greg Hardy should be part of the UFC roster purge

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It’s time for Dana White to right his wrong and cut Greg Hardy

UFC Fight Night: Hardy v Sosoli Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

I know it’s not in his nature, but it’s the right time for Dana White to admit he made a mistake in signing (and overpaying) Greg Hardy to get on-the-job training in what we have repeatedly been told is the highest level MMA promotion in the world. The proper response to that error is to release Hardy.

It’s easy to see the UFC thought it had something incredibly — well, I’m not sure what the UFC thought when it signed Hardy to fight under the promotion’s banner.

An NFL player for six seasons. Hardy was a pariah by the time his football career came to an abrupt end in 2015. After he spent that season with the Dallas Cowboys, the toxic defensive end found that not a single NFL team wanted him on their squad.

During his NFL career, Hardy was arrested and found guilty in a bench trial of assaulting a woman. He also pleaded out on what was originally a felony cocaine charge. The assault charges were later dropped and expunged on appeal after the woman Hardy had reportedly assaulted stopped cooperating with prosecutors. The plea deal on the drug charge knocked the crime down to misdemeanor status.

With professional football in his rearview mirror, Hardy gave MMA a shot. In 2017, he took part in three amateur fights before the UFC gave him a shot on the Dana White Contender Series. Hardy won that fight via first-round knockout. The UFC either liked what it saw or figured Hardy could bring in viewers because the promotion quickly signed him to a developmental deal.

After another DWCS fight and one bout with Xtreme Fight, Hardy made his official UFC debut. The referee disqualified the inexperienced fighter for throwing a blatantly illegal knee in that contest. With that contest taking place in New York, the athletic commission did not disclose Hardy’s pay.

In his second outing with the UFC, a knockout win over Dmitry Smolyakov, Hardy made $150,000 ($75,000/$75,000). That pay rate raised eyebrows. Normally a 1-1 UFC fighter would be on a contract that pays a possible $24,000 ($12,000/$12,000). For his first UFC victory, Hardy earned more than former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza $90,000 ($45,000/$45,000) and almost as much as veteran Jim Miller $180,000 ($90,000/$90,000), who also took part in that event.

Hardy’s most recent fight, which took place on December 19, was his eighth contest with the UFC. He lost that fight by knockout in the second round to Marcin Tybura.

From his first DWCS fight to his loss to Tybura, Hardy’s striking has improved tremendously, as his fight IQ while he is on his feet. During his first few fights, Hardy was all power and aggression. He has progressed in technique, counters, cage management and situational awareness. If his development continues, and all of his fights remained standing, Hardy could possibly be a force in the UFC heavyweight division.

But this is mixed martial arts — emphasis on “mixed.”

In the second round of his scrap with Tybura, Hardy did not look nearly as good as he did in the first stanza. He was slower and Tybura kept Hardy on his back foot. With 1:38 left in the round two, Tybura took the fight to the mat right in front of Hardy’s coaches.

The former NFL player looked clueless on the ground, even though his coaches gave him instructions from the side of the octagon. After three ground strikes to the head and two knees to the body, Hardy covered his head. With that, Tybura teed off and ended the fight via ground strikes while Hardy offered no substantial defense.

The loss to Tybura showed Hardy is far from a complete fighter. A novice-level ground game was alarming to see from a fighter who has been working with former UFC champion Rashad Evans and Din Thomas.

Hardy is currently unranked, and with suspect cardio and no ground skills to speak of, he will remain so. Fight Matrix has Hardy listed as the No. 46 heavyweight in the world. That puts him one spot ahead of former Bellator and PFL fighter Philipe Lins, who is 0-2 in the UFC and five spots below Ilir Latifi, who is 0-1 at heavyweight with the UFC. Lins has a career record of 14-5 and has been fighting since 2005 and Latifi, who has been fighting since 2008, is 14-8-0-1.

With the UFC set to purge its roster of over 50 fighters in the coming days, the promotion should drop Hardy from the promotion. There are three reasons I feel this way.

The UFC does not run a job training program. The promotion has sold itself as the top of the class in MMA. White and his cohorts at UFC headquarters want the company to be considered an equal with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. In NFL terms Hardy is the quarterback who can scramble, but who cannot throw a pass. If he were in the MLB, Hardy would be the catcher who can’t throw a base runner out at second. You get the picture. He’s a work in progress and there is no completion date in sight for the project that is Greg Hardy.

Another reason the UFC should release Hardy if it is looking at cost vs. benefit is pay. There’s no doubt high-priced fighters with little or no path to a UFC title are going to be under the microscope as the UFC reviews its roster. As a business move, this makes sense. The promotion can drop one high-priced contract and use those savings to sign a handful of fighters to their first deals.

Anthony Pettis is a good example of cost vs. benefit. Pettis fought out his UFC deal at UFC Vegas 17 and the UFC allowed him to walk and sign with the PFL. We don’t know what the former lightweight champion made for his last UFC fight, but Pettis made $310,000 for his UFC 249 bout against Donald Cerrone. If the UFC used all of that $310,000 to sign new fighters — which is unlikely — it could ink 13 competitors to $12,000/$12,000 deals — assuming wins for all of those fighters in their debuts.

Hardy made $180,000 for his UFC 249 win. He is 1-1 since then. It’s easy to imagine that Hardy made the same or more for his bout against Tybura. Let’s compare that to what we know about the pay of the top-15 UFC heavyweights.

Recent pay of UFC top-15 heavyweights

Rank Fighter Most Recent Disclosed pay Fights Since Pay Disclosed Record Since Pay Disclosed
Rank Fighter Most Recent Disclosed pay Fights Since Pay Disclosed Record Since Pay Disclosed
1 Francis Ngannou 260,000 0 NA
2 Curtis Blaydes 180,000 0 NA
3 Jairzinho Rozenstruik 80,000 1 1-0
4 Derrick Lewis 270,000 5 2-3
5 Alistair Overeem 400,000 1 1-0
6 Alexander Volkov 80,000 1 1-0
7 Ciryl Gane unknown NA NA
8 Shamil Abdurakhimov 28,000 5 3-2
9 Augusto Sakai 100,000 1 0-1
10 Aleksei Oleinik 160,000 1 0-1
11 Junior Dos Santos 400,000 9 4-5
12 Walt Harris 75,000 1 0-1
13 Blagoy Ivanov 60,000 0 NA
14 Sergei Pavlovich unknown NA NA
15 Marcin Tybura 136,000 3 3-0

Looking at those numbers, Hardy is a poor investment for the UFC as it pays him more than many of the ranked UFC heavyweights.

Last, Hardy is not good for the UFC. Whenever he fights, social media fills up with commentary on his past and reminders that UFC president Dana White once said, “You don’t bounce back from hitting a woman.” He’s a PR nightmare.

No matter how hard the UFC tries to sell Hardy as a redemption story, he is not one. In fact, he’s the exact opposite. He’s someone who portrays himself as the victim, which from what we know, he is not.

If he wasn’t Greg “former NFL player” Hardy, he probably would have never made it to the UFC. It’s time for the UFC to correct the error it made when signing Hardy and remove him from the roster, but that would require White to admit he was wrong. With that, don’t be surprised if Hardy survives the upcoming UFC roster contraction.