Greg Hardy, the former NFL All-Pro defensive end, is still a neophyte when it comes to mixed martial arts. He’s only had eight total fights, which includes three amateur bouts.
But Hardy, who believes he has greatly improved his since April 27 stoppage of an intimidated Dmitri Smoliakov, hopes he’s not an anomaly as an ex-NFLer in the UFC for much longer.
Hardy wants to encourage active NFL players to join the UFC, which he believes would dramatically increase the level of fighting. Several NFL players train in MMA in the offseason, and Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in 2017, posted a photo on Instagram on Wednesday of him training with ex-UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Hardy said that improving the quality of talent in the UFC would have a trickle-down effect that would benefit all fighters. Hardy, who fights Juan Adams on the main card Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) of UFC San Antonio at the AT&T Center, believes he’ll eventually be at the top of the heap, no matter who the UFC brings in.
“Anybody who’s ever went against me in the NFL, they don’t call my name out,” Hardy said. “They know better. If they come over, and decide to cross over, which is what I want because I’m trying to open the floodgates for these guys to be on this side and be a part of this, they will get punished if they say my name. They will get punished.
“It’s going to be the same thing as it was in the NFL, and I’m going to stand far, far, far above everybody else. But the only way that things get better is if you raise the bar and bringing in [players from the NFL to fight in the UFC] would raise the bar. It’s no different than what Amanda Nunes is doing for women. The bar is being raised. When the bar is raised, the competition is improved, there’s more opportunity for athletes and fans alike and there’s more money for everyone.”
Hardy is 4-1, his only loss a second-round disqualification to Alan Crowder in January in his UFC debut. Otherwise, each of his other MMA fights have ended in the first-round, in inverse order in two minutes, 15 seconds; 53 seconds; 17 seconds and 57 seconds.
He has plenty of incentive to attack Adams and try to deliver a violent finish, given all the trash Adams has talked about him for the past seven months.
Hardy, though, said he wants to be a well-rounded fighter and said that means excelling in all areas. He isn’t going to necessarily come out firing and looking to concuss Adams.
“You know, I’m going to be honest, and I’m going to say that I don’t think the casual fan isn’t going to take a liking to my next couple of fights,” Hardy said. “Fans who were fans of mine in the NFL and are watching MMA for the first time, this fight and these next couple may not be for them. But the educated fans, the other fighters, coaches, people in the business who know MMA, will enjoy it more.
“My focus is excelling in all areas of this sport. I have gotten the hang and the grasp of striking. It’s been good for me, but that’s one part. You can even look at Mr. Ngannou. It doesn’t pay to continue to be a violent striker. Look at Derrick Lewis in his last fight. The difference with me, I’ve been paid more than anyone else in this sport. I’m not here just to collect a check in a championship fight.”
Rather, he wants to be ready for all comers. He referenced top heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou, who is the division’s hardest hitter but lost a title shot against Miocic when he didn’t have a ground game.
Hardy said he’s told his coaches at American Top Team to help him broaden his game.
“I want to go out and finish the championship fight,” Hardy said. “I need to be a complete fighter to do that. I have to pull back on the ‘Just kill, punch him in the face’ mentality that’s so easy to fall into, and go into a finish mentality where the goal is to win in every way and any way possible within the rules as fast as I can.”
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