Greg Hardy and Dana White had very different viewpoints on what happened Saturday night at UFC Fort Lauderdale.
Hardy earned a first-round TKO win over Dmitrii Smoliakov, marking the former NFL star’s first victory in his second fight with UFC. After the bout, Hardy compared himself to NBA legend Michael Jordan and vowed to make former NFL/MLB stud Bo Jackson “look like a joke” with his own multisport endeavors.
“I’m reaching heights that I’ve never reached before,” Hardy told reporters, via MMAFighting.com. “I’ve been alongside titans for my whole life. Michael Oher, Greg Oden, Joakim Noah, Al Horford — I played against these guys in college. Tom Brady, Cam Newton, these guys are titans, these guys are monsters in the game. So to come over here and transition to a place where ‘titan’ isn’t the right justification for what these guys are, it’s amazing. And I just don’t think these heights have been reached yet.
“This is gonna make Bo Jackson look like a joke. I’m the fights sports’ athlete version of what Jordan could be. This is just getting started. We’re scratching the surface, basically.”
White was less impressed. The UFC president questioned Smoliakov’s skills and wondered how on earth the Russian won nine fights prior to Saturday’s loss.
But Hardy, who spent six seasons in the NFL (2010-15) with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys, clearly was feeling himself. Domestic violence allegations cast a shadow over his football career, but he’s now looking at his foray into MMA as a second chance.
“If you really listen, there’s less and less boos,” Hardy said, per MMAFighting.com. “All I hear is the crowd. All I hear is the people that appreciate me. People are gonna boo. It happens. But all I heard was cheers. I heard people that love me, I heard my crowd, my fans, the people that I’ve embraced came down here, been living here for two, three years accept me and enjoy what I put out.
“That was my favorite part of it. That was the best feeling, just to know that they enjoy what I put out.”
Hardy won his first three professional MMA fights before losing his UFC debut in January via disqualification, so Saturday’s win obviously was a nice bounce-back effort for the former Pro Bowl defensive end. But comparing yourself to M.J. and Bo?
Hardy might want to dial it back a bit.