Former NFL pass rushing star Greg Hardy is finally starting to feel comfortable in his second career as a mixed martial artist.
The controversial fighter, who turns 31 on July 28, insists that’s bad news for opponents.
“I’m a more calm, more happy, more deadly version of myself,” he said. “I found the peace in violence. I found my spot. I found my niche, and I feel good about it. Nobody can take it away.”
Hardy is coming off his first official UFC victory when he knocked out Dmitrii Smoliakov about midway through the first round in April. He will look to follow up the performance when he meets Juan Adams on Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 4 card in San Antonio.
“We’re here to break faces,” Hardy said. “This is not a nice-guy sport, but I’m a nice guy until they lock the cage. When I get in there, I’m coming to break your face in every single way possible. I want to break people down in beautiful, phenomenal ways, and it’s coming soon.”
Adams said Saturday won’t be that day, and he might have a thing or two to say about Hardy’s characterization of himself as “nice.” He has made no secret of his disdain for Hardy, even employing on a profane hashtag on social media posts and T-shirts to express his hatred.
Part of his issue is certainly the well-documented problems that derailed Hardy’s football career, but Adams acknowledges a portion of his disdain stems from the UFC’s marketing push of Hardy.
“My whole life, I’ve lived the straight and narrow. I’ve done things by the book,” Adams told ESPN. “And he’s over here getting arrested for cocaine and domestic violence. The more attention he’s received in this sport, the more upset it’s made me.”
Hardy, who was 3-0 as an amateur and won his first three fights as a pro before losing by disqualification in his UFC debut in January, has mostly tried to stay out of the fray.
“I send my messages in the cage,” he said. “I used to send them on the field. When you’re the baddest man on the freaking planet, you don’t need to talk trash or coax people into fighting before the fight. They’re going to lock us in the cage.”
Hardy thinks he can be the UFC heavyweight champion and said this week he eventually would like to see Jon Jones move up to the division and fight him.
That’s a long way off. For now, Hardy knows he must focus on avoiding any more setbacks in or out of the cage.
“I’m not fighting 50-0 type guys or the Floyd Mayweather-caliber guys or Cain Velasquezes of the world,” he said. “I don’t have the privilege of going out there and trying new things and making mistakes or errors. I’m just coming to execute and finish the best way I know how with the best tools I have.”
The bout is part of a main card headlined by a welterweight contender bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Leon Edwards. The preliminary card airs live at 3 p.m. and the main card at 6 on ESPN.
Santos undergoes surgery
Thiago Santos lost a split decision to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 239 on July 6 at T-Mobile Arena.
The valiant effort came at the expense of his knees. Santos had surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his right knee as well as ACL, MCL and meniscus tears in his left knee Wednesday in Los Angeles.
“After four hours of surgery, the doctors say everything is fixed,” Santos wrote on Instagram. “Now my focus is on a full recovery so I can get back in there better and stronger!”
Santos is expected to miss at least the rest of 2019.
Lightweight showdown set
Donald Cerrone will meet Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC Fight Night 158 on Sept. 14 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the organization announced Friday.
The bout matching two of the UFC’s most exciting fighters was teased this week by Cerrone on social media.
Cerrone had his three-fight winning streak snapped by top contender Tony Ferguson in June. Gaethje, who has been awarded fight-night bonuses in all five of his UFC appearances, has won two straight after suffering his first two career losses.
Saturday: UFC on ESPN 4 (ESPN), San Antonio
July 27: UFC 240 (ESPN/ESPN Plus PPV), Edmonton, Alberta
Aug. 3: UFC on ESPN 5 (ESPN), Newark, N.J.
Aug. 10: UFC Fight Night 156 (ESPN Plus), Montevideo, Uruguay
Aug. 17: UFC 241 (ESPN/ESPN Plus PPV), Anaheim, Calif.