The topic of Greg Hardy in the UFC is quickly becoming one of the most polarizing issues in mixed martial arts (MMA).
A former NFL star with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys, Hardy has been a controversial figure ever since he began his MMA journey. He has been and always will be followed around by the shadow of his domestic violence arrest from years ago. Hardy was ultimately not convicted when his alleged victim failed to show up and testify, suggesting a settlement had taken place.
Regardless of the outcome, the alleged incident has haunted Hardy throughout his entire MMA journey thus far. Part of that may be the fact that the UFC has chosen to book Hardy in the co-main event of both of his UFC fights despite the belief he hasn’t even come close to earning it.
Billy Padden, Hardy’s boxing coach at Florida’s American Top Team (ATT), surprisingly agrees with that sentiment. He recently told Bloody Elbow that their training staff wanted Hardy to be brought up slower but his management didn’t agree:
“We tried to slow this thing down. We didn’t want this to happen. He doesn’t want to be the co-main event. It takes guys 10 years to get to this level, to the UFC. He knows this happened quickly; we know this happened quickly.
“Management teams are not always on the same page as the trainers. The management people felt he was ready; we have to respect their decision. Greg felt he was ready. I’m gonna train him to the best of my ability no matter who they put in front of him.”
No Ceiling On Hardy?
So Hardy is fighting at the top of events despite his competition being lesser-known names like Allen Crowder and Dmitrii Smoliakov. He was disqualified for hitting Crowder with an illegal knee in January and recently destroyed Smoliakov at last weekend’s UFC Ft. Lauderdale. Padden believes Hardy has the potential to beat fighters far better than those two. Based on what he’s seen, Hardy could even be UFC champion one day:
“There’s no ceiling. I’ve had some professional boxers come in and spar him, and he hangs right with them. We want to fight the best — not now, not next fight, but within a couple years. Within a year I think he’ll be in the top 10.
“I just believe he has everything you need (to win the belt). He’s starting to prove it now with the way he came back and almost recreated himself for this fight. … If he stays the course, I absolutely believe he could be heavyweight champion.”
No Malice Intended
As for Hardy’s alleged history of domestic violence, Padden has a certain theory about what really happened. If Hardy truly wanted to hurt a woman, he said, she would be dead:
“I watch Greg Hardy hit grown men and make them limp as a noodle in seconds,” Padden said. “If he had any malice the night of this alleged incident, the woman would be dead.”
Interesting way to look at things from Padden, who has worked in law enforcement himself. The coach not surprisingly backed his fighter, and even took the brash stance of painting Hardy as a victim of sorts:
“The Greg Hardy I know is one of the best living guys I’ve met down here,” Padden said. “Every time I’m walking him to the ring, I hear, ‘You woman beater,’ I hear nasty things said to him. I don’t think he deserves it.”