UFC president Dana White has confirmed that former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will make his UFC debut January 19 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Hardy’s debut will also be UFC’s first card in its new five-year deal with ESPN, airing on ESPN+.
In July 2014, Hardy was found guilty and was sentenced to probation and 60 days in jail after assaulting an ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. That conviction was later expunged from his record due to her not appearing in court for his appeal, but the NFL suspended Hardy, and he eventually washed out of the league. He took up MMA, and eventually landed in the UFC after an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series, airing on UFC Fight Pass.
Hardy’s debut will come on the same night as Rachael Ostovich’s third UFC fight. Ostovich was recently attacked in Hawaii, and Arnold Berdon, her husband, was initially arrested for second-degree attempted murder and eventually charged with second-degree assault. In documents obtained by TMZ, Ostovich accused Berdon of punching her repeatedly and breaking her orbital bone. A restraining order was filed and Berdon was arrested soon after the incident based on the allegations. Ostovich is still on the card and is slated to face Paige VanZant despite her injuries, and is vowing to “take a stand against domestic violence.”
The juxtaposition between a previously convicted abuser in Hardy making his UFC debut on the same night as someone who had been abused in Ostovich is certainly one that UFC should deal with. Other than confirming that the fight is still on, White hasn’t said much about Ostovich. Relating to Hardy, ESPN reported that White knows that “Hardy’s past will “follow him for the rest of his life” but is willing to give [Hardy] a second chance.”
White isn’t wrong. What Hardy did was reprehensible and should follow him the rest of his life, but if he has honestly turned his life around, more power to White if he’s willing to give Hardy a second chance. The problem is that this is a situation that could have been avoided, especially since Hardy was supposed to fight on a regional show in December before being pulled from that card to fight on this one. Maybe the UFC wanted to have Hardy on the first ESPN+ fight to kick off their partnership and they feel it’s worth the backlash, but having his debut on the same night as someone who is having her first fight after allegedly being beaten by her husband is incredibly tone deaf. There’s still time for the UFC to realize how absurd this is and make a change, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the company dug its heels in further instead of bowing to public pressure.