Former NFL defensive end and current mixed martial artist Greg Hardy could make his UFC debut as soon as next month.
Hardy, who played in the NFL from 2010 to 2015, has a 3-0 MMA record. In his last fight, the 6'5", 265-pounder knocked out Rasheem Jones at Xtreme Fight Night 352 on Sept. 29.
The 6'3", 245-pound Crowder has a 9-3 record. He hasn't fought professionally since Dec. 2, 2017, when Justin Willis knocked him out in the first round.
Hardy was one of the NFL's best defensive players in 2012 and 2013, amassing 26 sacks and 120 tackles for the Carolina Panthers.
However, Hardy was found guilty "of assaulting a female and communicating threats" in July 2014. Per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), Nicole Holder, who used to date Hardy, told the court "she was assaulted by Hardy at his apartment after a night of drinking. She also said Hardy threatened to kill her and put his hands around her neck."
As Okamoto noted, "the charges were later expunged from his record when the victim failed to appear in court for a jury trial during his appeal."
Hardy was placed on the commissioner's exempt list in 2014 and played just one game for the Panthers, who did not re-sign him. In 2015, Hardy was suspended four games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He appeared in 12 contests for the Dallas Cowboys but was not re-signed.
Despite Hardy's history, the UFC is willing to give him another shot at a professional athletic career. Per Okamoto, "White has acknowledged Hardy's past will 'follow him for the rest of his life' but is willing to give the former All-Pro defensive lineman a second chance."
The main hurdle to the planned bout appears to be the contracts, which have yet to be signed, according to Okamoto. Provided the deal gets done, Hardy and Crowder will battle on UFC Fight Night at the Barclays Center.