Former NFL star Greg Hardy will finally make his Octagon debut later tonight (Sat., Jan. 19, 2019) at UFC on ESPN+ 1 from inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, when he squares off with Allen Crowder in the co-main event.
Hardy’s storied past has certainly stirred up some controversy leading up to his UFC arrival, but the promotion is still hoping his star potential carries over into the cage. The only problem is that Hardy, who currently holds a 3-0 professional MMA record, is extremely green to the sport.
Luckily, Hardy has been granted the opportunity to train with some of the best fighters in the world at American Top Team to help take his game to the next level. And according to ATT coach Din Thomas, Hardy has done everything right over the past few years to ready himself for a UFC run.
“The only Greg Hardy I know is the one that I met two years ago,” Thomas told BJPenn.com. “That’s been a guy with hard work, dedication, and wanting to be the best fighter he can be. I’m in a position to give him that and that’s all it’s been since I met, since the first day he walked into my office and said he wanted to do this, he told me it wasn’t a gimmick for him. That’s all I really know about Greg, I only know that side of him. It’s been great, I can’t really complain about Greg. I’m good friends with his management team and we all see the same thing, we see a guy who just trains really hard, he’s really dedicated and passionate. He wants to improve on fighting every single day, and I’m in a position to offer that to him and I give it to him.”
Hardy, 30, obviously has natural ability having played in the NFL from 2010-2015, but fight fans really didn’t know what to expect when the former defensive lineman stepped inside of the cage for the first time in 2017. While Hardy’s exposure has been limited, the hulking heavyweight has ended each and every one of his pro and amateur bouts via first-round knockout.
That sort of punching power is what attracted UFC to Hardy in the first place, but it’s going to take more from the former NFL star to make a real impact in MMA.
“He’s grown a lot, I mean he’s always had power and he’s strong, but he’s grown a lot,” Thomas said. “He’s worked on his mechanics, his punching mechanics, because that’s what really leads to knocking people out. Greg has spent a lot of time focusing on that and how to win fights, and how to be a fighter. It’s not just about throwing punches and kicks, and choking people out. You have to know how to be a fighter and these are things you have to be taught, and he’s learning that, he’s open-minded, he embraces everything he learns. What I like about him is that as he’s learning things, he’s coming up with his own way of doing things but he doesn’t do it blindly. If he says something good, I’ll say it’s great, but if he comes up with something whack, I’ll tell him let’s not do that.”
Thomas, who also trains the likes of UFC champions Amanda Nunes and Tyron Woodley, jumped at the opportunity to help Hardy prepare for the next chapter in his athletic career. The ATT coach understands that Hardy is taking a huge risk in moving over into fighting and he wanted to make sure the 30-year-old had all the necessary tools to succeed.
“I’ll say this, I’m all into the martial arts because the martial arts will expose the truth in you,” he said. “At the end of the day, martial arts is all about honor and respect, and it’s telling the truth. When you’re out there inside that Octagon, the truth will be told. When I’m working with Greg Hardy, that’s what we see, to find the truth. Can you beat this man in front of you? That’s the reality of it and that’s the truth, can you beat this man with the same body parts? The fact that Greg Hardy has taken to that and put himself out there, saying this is what he wants to do and be vulnerable to putting the truth out there. That’s why I work with Greg, he’s risked getting knocked out in front of millions of people, he’s going to risk that just to do this. He works hard so that it doesn’t happen and that’s what I like about him, and that’s why I’m going to work him and help him reach his dream which is to be the best fighter on the planet.”
While Hardy has been training under Thomas for over two years now, Thomas understands that there is still a lot of work ahead. Hardy may be a great athlete with devastating punching power but fight fans haven’t seen much else form him in the form of takedown defense, grappling, durability, chin, clinch work, and so on.
Thomas believes that Hardy has the ability to put everything together and make a real push up the UFC heavyweight ladder, but that’s only if Hardy can keep up with the promotion’s push.
“If you give him enough time, I know he can become UFC champion, but the timing has to be right,” Thomas explained. “There’s a lot more to it. There’s so many moving parts with success in MMA. A lot of it is timing, being in the right place at the right time, winning some key fights, and just having some key moments in those fights, it all has to come together for you.”
“That’s going to be difficult for Greg cause those things have to align properly and the fact that he is so green in this sport, I know they’re going to try and push it faster which is going to force him to have to learn at an incredibly fast rate. There may be some things he can’t learn fast enough, that’s the reality of it. If you give him enough time, he can be UFC champion but if you push him too early, he could struggle. I know the UFC doesn’t have time to wait for Greg to get better. They have a business to run, so we have to do the best we can to make him as prepared as we can have him for the speed they want to push him.”
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