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It’s impossible to talk about Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight bruiser, Greg Hardy, without talking about the controversy surrounding his signing with the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, thanks to domestic assault charges back in 2014.
Especially when you consider the organization’s hardline stance on violence against women, which was enough to get some fighters (like this former featherweight) banished for life. Hardy, however, had a bankable name, thanks to his career as a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL).
But was that enough to warrant all the bad press and extra baggage Hardy brought with him to combat sports? No, because the “Prince of War” has yet to prove he has any business being inside the Octagon, despite a valiant effort to rack up as many fights as possible — which I’m sure is by design and intended to take the focus off his past and put it on his future.
In two fights Hardy has registered one disqualification and one no contest, which is the kind of embarrassing start you would expect from an athlete who can throw a heavy punch but not grasp the nuances of MMA, something that takes a considerable amount of seasoning. In fairness, I would also expect someone like Francis Ngannou to rack up flag after flag if he suited up and played for the New York Giants after just a handful of scrimmages.
The only way UFC President Dana White can justify having Hardy on the UFC roster is by establishing him as a bona fide title contender and one of the best heavyweight fighters in the sport. Because even if his checkered past gives the industry a black eye, being the best in the world means beating the best in the world, which is why Daniel Cormier got so much heat for his light heavyweight title run — it came without defeating Jon Jones.
Stepping into the UFC Fight Night 163 main event on short notice, thanks to a lingering infection that benched former champion Junior dos Santos, gives Hardy the chance to change the narrative of his career. The biggest reason he can’t escape his past is because he hasn’t done anything to overshadow it. Alexander Volkov is ranked No. 7 in the world and holds victories over Fabricio Werdum and Roy Nelson, just to name a few.
Upsetting “Drago” this weekend in Moscow will silence the doubters, for which there are aplenty, and establish the “Prince of War” as a legitimate title contender. It doesn’t exonerate him of his past grievances or make him the role model nobody expects him to be, but it does give him the right to call the UFC heavyweight division his home and proves he does, in fact, belong among the MMA elite. Those words might have sounded crazy just a few months ago and will probably serve as a punchline if Hardy loses.
I’m just glad we get to find out sooner, rather than later.