Earlier this year, former NFL player Greg Hardy talked about his switch from the gridiron to the MMA cage. This was a move met with controversy and some called for all MMA promotions to not sign Hardy, whose NFL playing career has been overshadowed by an alleged domestic violence altercation and a number of drug-related arrests.
But Hardy finally did have his first MMA bout on Saturday night, competing in an amateur bout at Rise of a Warrior 21 in Fort Pierce, Florida. Hardy defeated Joe Hawkins, who was also making his amateur MMA debut, in 32 seconds. Hardy landed a right hand to floor Hawkins before landing in several more shots before the referee stopped the match.
“I’m ecstatic. I’ve been humbled a lot in the last two years. I’m just super excited to be able to compete. I’m just super excited to be back in the area. I’m super excited to be back to the Greg Hardy everyone knows and remembers and give back to my fans.”
Hardy trains at American Top Team, which is the camp for several big name MMA stars including UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley, UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos.
“They took me in. They gave me the respect that I didn’t deserve. They gave me the time that I didn’t deserve because I’m a nobody in this field. They have an open heart and open door. So just big shout-out to ATT.”
Hardy says if given the chance, he’d like to consider returning to the football. But right now, he’s chasing a dream — to one day compete in the UFC.
“I’d be a fool to turn away from what I loved doing for so long. But it’s a habit of an athlete, a player and a baller to put his whole heart and soul into what I’m doing. So the UFC has got my heart and soul. That’s where I’m going in my mind and my heart. Everything that I do is focused on this MMA career, so I’m coming.”
Original Story: ESPN