After Latest UFC Mishap, Greg Hardy's True Sport of Choice Is the Blame Game

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterOctober 21, 2019

Greg Hardy
Greg HardyChris Unger/Getty Images

Call him a three-sport star.

Despite success both in pro football and MMA, those may not be where Greg Hardy's true talents lie. After yet another UFC mishap Friday that resulted in his unanimous-decision win being overturned to a bizarre no-contest because of his inhaler, it seems Hardy's (5-1 [1], 2-1 [1] UFC) true competitive calling is the blame game.

Here's what happened Friday: After a winning-but-flagging Hardy finished the second round of his main card bout with Ben Sosoli (7-2 [2], 0-0 [1] UFC) at UFC on ESPN 6, Hardy took a puff from his inhaler before answering the third-round bell. That's, well, that's unusual. Hardy finished the bout and received 29-28 scores across the board. But then the real world intervened, and the win went off the board.

Beforehand, Hardy had apparently disclosed the inhaler to the state athletic commission and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, but that doesn't give him permission to use it during a fight. It certainly left fighters, pundits and fans rather agog on Twitter (language NSFW).

Through the UFC, Hardy issued a post-fight statement to the media.

"I was in the ring, me and my coach asked the commission if it would be OK to use my inhaler and they said 'yes,' so I took it," Hardy's statement read in part. "I'm still [a] new guy in this sport, I did what I do in every situation—I asked permission, I got permission and I did what I was told."

UFC President Dana White, an unabashed Hardy fan, jumped in to take Hardy's corner to task, saying that "they've got to know you can't use an inhaler in the corner."

Hardy lands a punch on Ben Sosoli
Hardy lands a punch on Ben SosoliChris Unger/Getty Images

It wasn't Hardy's fault, you see. He asked a guy, and the guy said "yes," but then there were these other guys who said something else and these other guys who did a thing and that's it! Drive safe.

It's a relatively light matter, but as people familiar with Hardy know, it follows in some much heavier footsteps. Some pointed out after the issue that Hardy might actually be a sympathetic figure here.

But thanks to the precedent of Hardy refusing to accept responsibility for his actions or for how the public perceives him, his reputational safety net long ago frayed beyond reliability. Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

We'll return to that in a moment. Let's first lay out what got us and Hardy to this point.

The first stop here is obvious, and let's not write it out in shorthand. Hardy, an all-pro defensive end with the Carolina Panthers, who in 2013 had recorded 15 sacks, was accused in May 2014 by then-girlfriend Nicole Holder of throwing her against a wall, throwing her on a futon covered with guns, choking her and threatening to kill her (Pictures were later released by Deadspin that illustrated the alleged abuse.). In July 2014, a judge found Hardy guilty, though the charges were later dismissed and expunged in a separate trial after Hardy appealed and Holder did not appear in court despite law enforcement efforts to locate her.

Hardy has denied any legal wrongdoing while at the same time making no major effort to take accountability for the mess from a personal or moral standpoint (which obviously isn't necessarily related to the legal outcome). Hardy has appeared to accept little accountability for any role he had in what happened. Before he first took the field for the Dallas Cowboys following a four-game NFL suspension for the abuse scandal, Hardy said he planned to come out "guns blazing." There was also the time he rapped in a video that "it'll be a cold day in hell before your girl tries to play me."

It may not be victim-blaming, but it's not exactly the sound of a buck stopping.

Following his purported exile from the NFL and during the subsequent pivot to MMA, some rolled out the redemption narrative while others lambasted the UFC for giving Hardy an opportunity at all. In both, Hardy has not pulled his weight. Training UFC does not in itself a self-improvement blueprint create. For every public moment of introspection, there were always equal or greater moments of unrepentance to undermine it.

Thus, the "I'll show you" mindset took hold. Hey, that's not uncommon. It's why the humble bulletin board is pro sports' most indispensable piece of office equipment.

But there's more here than arrogance or revenge—two things that, distasteful as they may be to some, aren't exactly career-threatening qualities in pro sports. There's a pretty clear sense Hardy feels the narrative toward him is personal, that he's less a man seeking a better life than one grown weary of explaining himself to lesser mortals. If you dare to challenge him, well, it's your fault, because you can't do what he does, as if that one truth is the only piece of evidence needed to prove any dissent is fueled by envy or weakness.

"I've done what 99 percent of the world will never do: become a professional athlete, and [I'm] now doing it again," Hardy told FanSided in advance of his TKO defeat of Dmitry Smolyakov (9-3, 0-3 UFC) this April. "Two professional sports; the 1 percent of the 1 percent can't do that. I'm one of the most entertaining athletes in the world and most people enjoy watching Greg Hardy and for those who don't tune in Saturday, I'll make you a fan."

See? Greg Hardy's not the problem. It's the lesser-thans who can't see his genius who are trying to take him down.

There's one exception to Hardy's blame game, but it might just prove the rule. In his UFC debut, with boos raining down, Hardy landed an illegal knee to lose by disqualification to Allen Crowder (10-4, 1-2 UFC). To his credit, Hardy took some responsibility, noting he "mistimed" the illegal strike. That's great, but when you look at the video, let's just say there isn't a whole lot of room for spin. So, yes, he assumed accountability, but only equivocally, and only when the entire moment was captured on film.

Critics and haters are everywhere, and their targets have every right to push back. This little ballet is the circulatory system of the modern discourse, sports and otherwise. And yes, some people are jealous of those more talented or fortunate.

It might feel good to stop there, to dump every grievance in the collective lap of a million invisible green-eyed trolls. But we all know deep down it's not that easy. Simply put, there's a difference between living in the public eye and having a persecution complex, which is what results in the finger-pointing.

Do some deserve a second chance? That is a 100 percent affirmative. And don't think for a second that White won't give one of the biggest celebrities on his roster another chance, and another after that. Maybe Hardy will straighten the ship, fly right, win over the fans, and get himself some good wins. Maybe we should hope for that. But for those with no vested interest, granting a second chance is tougher when someone won't learn from the first one.

That's the recipe for a Blame Game All-Star right there, and it degrades any benefit of the doubt Friday's incident might have created on its own. As long as this remains Hardy's real stock in trade, he'll be operating, at least in the court of public opinion, without a net.


Scott Harris writes about MMA and other things for Bleacher Report and other places.


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