In the whole world of habitual line-steppers, there are few that get under the skin of fight fans more than Greg Hardy. A former NFL player who disgraced and discredited himself thanks to allegedly attacking his girlfriend, Hardy has spent the last 18 months attempting to find a second life as a guy who... attacks people? It's either morbidly convenient or conveniently morbid. Whichever.
But in either case, the UFC has engaged in its own manner of line-stepping by continuing to give Hardy fight after fight. In fact, despite being largely devoid of any semblance of discipline or technique in the Octagon, Hardy has now fought at least once more in 2019 than any UFC fighter on earth-- which is why we ought to shower Alexander Volkov with effusive praise for doing the notion of human decency itself a favor handing Hardy his first MMA defeat Saturday in Moscow.
Thank you, Alex. Thank you for pummeling this confounding, blasphemous wreck of a man.
To be fair, however, I'm of two minds about what actually happened Saturday at UFC Fight Night 163.
Volkov is a known, ranked quantity in the heavyweight division. He's got wins inside the promotion over guys like Fabricio Werdum and Roy Nelson (though both were admittedly past their primes). And despite his significant advantage in both training and pro experience, Hardy actually did fight him credibly.
Yes, the former Dallas Cowboy and Carolina Panther lost. We're all grateful for that. But this was the bellwether moment for his fledgling combat career. If he had been bludgeoned into a pulp, he may as well be relegated to the circus. But since he held his own -- and didn't break any basic Octagon rules, something he has a comically absurd reputation for -- he should now be considered among the mainstream of UFC heavyweights.
As much as it pains me to admit.
The fact remains that Hardy, even as the worst kind of guilty pleasure, is a far bigger draw from a marketing standpoint than any other human being across the MMA world with similarly modest accomplishments (to say nothing of demoralizing behavioral demerits). Even taking his first L, you've still got to say that he's earned more bouts against capable, ranked fighters in the division. Think Aleksei Oleinik, or the loser of December's Alistair Overeem-Jairzinho Rozenstruik showdown.
Of course, this newfound "credibility" also that also means that the hatable Hardy is increasingly likely to lose more and more, right?
Ohhh, yeah. You know what? Let's cut right to the chase and throw Derrick Lewis at this poor, poor man.
Yeah. That'll be fun.
It may not be the fight we need, but it's the fight we deserve. Lean into it, America. And give Alexander Volkov a big ol' bear hug for helping to make this all possible.