In somewhere around 99% of other situations, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would welcome the addition of a former all star football player for the National Football League, who also happens to be undefeated in his amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
But the UFC’s addition of former defensive end Greg Hardy, who was previously a member of the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys, represents that 1% exception.
After all, Hardy is known far more for his alleged domestic violence charges, stemming from a 911 call made by his then-girlfriend back in 2014. According the the reports from police on the scene, the woman indicated that Hardy had not only physically abused her to the point where she had bruises all over her body, starting from her feet and going all the way up her legs, back, arms, neck, and even her chin, but Hardy even threw her onto a pile of weapons he had stockpiled in his home, and followed that up by threatening to kill her.
From a legal perspective, we should make clear that while Hardy was originally found guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats, the charges were later dropped when he appealed the case, and the charges were eventually expunged from his record.
However, regardless of what Hardy’s ultimate legal outcome might have been, the court of public opinion still feels a certain way. Forget the fact that Hardy continues to profess his innocence in one breath, but callously references the incident in the next, while showing almost no remorse for what happened. Even in his last few days in the NFL, Hardy’s behavior was so boorish and self-serving that a team like the Cowboys, known for taking on reclamation projects regardless of their legal standing, wanted nothing to do with him.
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In an era where the “#metoo” movement continues to gain traction on social media and the traditional media, and in a time where there is an increased focus on women’s equality and rights, thinking that the addition of Hardy to the UFC would be a positive marketing move is flawed thinking at best. Yes, it might generate headlines, and it might even attract some crossover interest into MMA from football fans who would otherwise never watch a match; perhaps they’d tune in to see Hardy get beaten up, if nothing else.
At the end of the day, UFC President Dana White is a savvy businessman and an even more savvy marketer. That’s why Hardy is fighting on a non-guaranteed contract with the UFC; White is essentially “taking the temperature” of the fans, and seeing whether they’d be willing to forgive someone who’s admittedly a rotten human being, if he shows a proficiency as a mixed martial artist.
But is that the message that we want to give to young martial artists, and the rest of society as a whole: that if you’re good at a sports that’s literally predicted on physical violence, it’s okay to use those tactics against anyone and still be gainfully employed?