Former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy plans on beginning a career in MMA next year, according to a statement provided to MMAFighting by the 28 year-old’s team.
Measuring 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing in at 285lbs, the 2010 sixth-round draft pick will compete at heavyweight.
“I’m very focused and excited to start my MMA career,” Hardy said in the aforementioned statement. “I’m going to do this the right way, I can assure you of that.”
“I’m fully committed to being as successful as I can be in this sport”
Hardy, who played college football for the University of Mississippi, signed a one-year contract with the Cowboy’s in March of 2015, after his deal with the Panthers expired and the NFC south franchise chose not to re-sign him. The deal was reportedly worth $11.3 million, but Hardy stood to earn as much as $13.1 million if he hit certain performance targets.
Here’s the one-year deal that Dallas gave to DE Greg Hardy… pic.twitter.com/7fwKhGUJOP
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2015
The 2013 Pro Bowler missed the first four games of the 2015 season however, due to a suspension handed down by the league for his involvement in a domestic violence incident the previous year.
When he finally took to the field for the Texas-based outfit, he made an immediate impact, scoring two sacks on New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady. He secured two further sacks over the next three games, but his performance dipped significantly as the season wore on. According to ESPN, he only recorded one sack and two half-sacks over the final eight games.
His behaviour off the field during this time also garnered negative publicity.
The Cowboys chose not to re-sign Hardy at the end of the season and he remained a free-agent up until the announcement that he would be making the move to a new sport.
Hardy is just the latest in a long line of former NFL players to make the transition to MMA. Bob Sapp may not be all that highly-regarded as a fighter, but the former Minnesota Viking was a huge star in Japan.
Matt Mitrione had brief stints for the New York Giants and the Vikings before finding some success in the UFC – going 9-5 in the world’s premier MMA promotion. He currently competes under the Bellator MMA umbrella.
Brendan Schaub retired from MMA in 2015 with a record of 10-5(6-5 in the UFC). Prior to becoming a professional fighter, ‘Big Brown’ had been a part of the Buffalo Bills practice squad.
Former Tennessee Titan Wes Shivers went 7-1 as a pro fighter and made an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, but was beaten by Britain’s James McSweeney in his only bout on the show.
These men had brief, relatively unsuccessful careers in the NFL before finding moderate success in MMA. But there are also instances of more successful footballers making the transition, most of whom didn’t end up having lengthy or decorated fighting careers.
Marcus Jones played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for seven seasons before making his professional MMA debut. He went 4-1 in his first five fights before entering The Ultimate Fighter Season 10. He won two bouts on the show, which are considered exhibitions and thus not included on a fighter’s official pro-record, before losing to Brendan Schaub. He would have one official bout in the UFC, at the TUF 10 season Finale, losing to fellow cast member Matt Mitrione.
Johnnie Morton had a lengthy career in the NFL, playing as a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, but his MMA career lasted just 38 seconds. He was knocked out by Bernard Ackah in his only bout, which took place at Dynamite!! USA in 2007.
Another wide receiver, Michael Westbrook, went 1-1 in MMA, losing to current UFC heavyweight Travis Browne in his final bout, after a lengthy career with the Washington Redskins.
The greatest former NFL player to try his hand at MMA was two-time Pro Bowler and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. Walker didn’t have his first fight until the age of 47, but scored two wins from two inside the Strikeforce cage. Earlier this year, at the age of 54, Walker claimed that he was interested in another bout and had been in contact with Bellator MMA president Scott Coker.