Dana White awards disgraced NFL star Greg Hardy UFC contract

Greg Hardy, seen here in 2013 as a member of the Carolina Panthers, was a defensive end in the NFL for parts of six seasons. his pro football career ended due to alleged domestic violence issues. (Dave Martin/AP)

Dana White has awarded former NFL star Greg Hardy a UFC contract.

Hardy defeated fellow former NFLer Austen Lane with a 57-second knockout on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in Las Vegas.

It was Hardy’s first professional mixed martial arts bout after he racked up a 3-0 amateur record with three first-round knockouts.

Hardy, 29, connected with a thunderous overhand right that rocked Lane before a follow-up left hook ended the fight.

Suffice it to say, White, who was cageside during the fight, was impressed with Hardy’s performance.

It’s unclear at this time how the UFC is going to use and promote Hardy.

“When you look at a guy like Hardy, Hardy has no experience, tonight was his first professional fight but, man, he can punch,” White said after the fight. “Obviously, there’s a lot more to that guy so what we’re going to do is we’re actually going to bring Hardy in [on a type of developmental contract]. … This guy needs to get some more experience and we’ll figure out how to do that. We’ve done this before.”

Hardy has been training with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., the same vaunted gym that is home to UFC champions Tyron Woodley and Amanda Nunes plus a slew of other notable MMA stars.

“It’s awesome news,” Hardy said, reacting to being given a chance to continue his MMA career under the UFC banner. “I get an opportunity to show what I got, go back and work hard and come back even better than before. It’s exciting. It’s everything I could’ve asked for.”

The UFC getting into business with Hardy does not come without criticism.

The former Pro Bowl defensive end spent parts of five seasons with the Carolina Panthers but his career fizzled when domestic violence allegations against him began surfacing in 2014.

Hardy was found guilty on two counts of domestic violence in July 2014 – those charges were dismissed during the appeal process in February 2015 – for an alleged altercation with his ex-girlfriend. He was placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List and missed all but one game of the 2014 season. The Panthers did not re-sign Hardy and after playing the 2015 season with the Dallas Cowboys he stepped away from football and announced in 2016 he would be transitioning to MMA.

Hardy entering the combat sports world was not received well by all given his history.

NFL insider Jay Glazer, who has for years been heavily involved in MMA, said in a tweet at the time that he “would be incredibly disappointed in any of my fellow MMA coaches and any promoters if they took Greg Hardy in and taught him a shred of our incredible sport. … Competing in any sport is a privilege, Greg Hardy should not be granted the privilege. There are many beautiful arts taught in our sport, none of which should be afforded to him.”

White and the UFC have spoken out against domestic violence in the past and have even released fighters with a history of it. For example, in 2014, the UFC cut featherweight Will Chope after an incident from his past was brought to light.

“We’re going to have situations where guys have some incidents,” White said then. “It depends on how big your incident is. They’re not all going to be the same. … It’s a case by case basis and it depends on how bad it is. [Chope’s] was pretty bad.”

Hardy added Tuesday that competing in MMA is a different feeling than anything else he’s experienced in his athletic career.

“I just want to get back in the ring. Whatever show it is I just want another opportunity to fight,” Hardy said. “I’m having the time of my life. I’m really enjoying it. This is definitely the top feeling I’ve probably ever had. There’s nothing like being in the Octagon facing another man, worthy opponents but transitioning’s been very hard. It’s been some of the hardest work I’ve ever done and it’s made it 10 times sweeter.”

Lane, 30, broke into the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2010 and spent three seasons as a defensive end with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished his career with brief stints in Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago before announcing his retirement from football in 2015. Lane was 4-0 with four knockouts prior to fighting Hardy.

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