By: Jesse Donathan
If I could give Greg Hardy one piece of advice, it would be to remember that, “he’s under a microscope” and that, “he needs to understand that.” The prophetic words of Cowboys COO Stephen Jones concerning the former NFL standout as reported by NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus in his May 4, 2015 piece “Cowboys respond to insensitive Greg Hardy tweet.” Short sighted at best, the insensitive tweet was small potatoes compared to the charges Hardy was initially found guilty of but which were later dropped upon appeal in which he was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
With the social stigma attached to violent crimes against women, Greg Hardy is fighting an uphill battle in both the eye of public and through the mixed martial arts media, some of whom have little issue in attempting to influence public perception with every conceivable Jedi mind trick at their disposal. From those calling for lowkey resistance to Hardy’s new found professional mixed martial arts career to those completely snubbing altogether, Hardy no shortage of detractors. Indeed, according to some, Greg Hardy is in fact the droid that the stormtroopers are looking for.
This kind of notoriety is money in the bank and a small slice of heaven to those in the combat sports entertainment industry who find themselves with a diamond in the rough with Greg Hardy. A fighter that fans love to hate, instead of turning off their televisions and refusing to watch a UFC fight, fans are actively lining up to hate Greg Hardy and its generating big business for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In an April 28, 2019 mmafighting.com article titled, “Dana White critical of Greg Hardy’s opponent Dmitrii Smoliakov: ‘That was weird’” author Alexander K. Lee writes that, “At a glance, it looked like Dmitrii Smoliakov wanted nothing to do with Greg Hardy. And Dana White saw the same thing everyone else saw.” The fight was noticeably weird from my perspective too; it appeared as if “The Lifeguard” Smoliakov had been brought in to rescue Greg Hardy’s career.
With a 4-1 record overall, (0-1 UFC) coming into Saturday night’s fight with former training partner Smoliakov, it was a seemingly must win fight for Hardy who had no shortage of fans and pundits alike questioning whether he even belongs in the UFC, much less in the co-main event for the second straight fight in a row. With Hardy having lost his inaugural UFC fight to Allen Crowder by disqualification (illegal knee), the sharks have been circling in nailing Hardy to the cross and demanding his departure from the worlds premiere mixed martial arts organization.
Interestingly enough, Smoliakov last fought in the UFC in January of 2017, losing to Cyril Asker by TKO before being cut from the promotion. Smoliakov last fought in January of this year for AC-Aslan Challenge in Russia, defeating Evgeniy Bova by submission before being re-signed by the UFC and immediately fighting in the controversial co-main event at UFC Fight Night 150 on ESPN+ Saturday night.
By reading the play-by-plays at some of these mixed martial arts media outlets you would never know there was anything out of the ordinary about the fight. But for those of us who actually tuned in, the fight was remarkable for its awkwardness. Smoliakov appeared unwilling or unable to engage, half heartedly rushing in for takedowns which were easily stopped by Hardy and the Russian seemingly put up little resistance once the fight hit the mat, content to take punches until the referee waived off the fight. Weird is one way to put it, questionable and disappointing would be another. For those who were hoping to see Hardy tested, they ultimately walked away empty-handed Saturday night as Hardy crushed another can on his way to UFC infamy.
The mmafighting.com article would go on to quote the UFC President as stating, “You guys know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, we don’t do set-up fights for anybody. And if I was a fan and probably some of the media, the way some of the media acts, I would think that was.”
“Hardy doesn’t make fights, me and my guys do,” said White. “I don’t know who the (expletive) that guy beat in nine fights, but I’d like to see the nine guys he beat. That was weird.” A “set-up fight” is a term I am unfamiliar with, which of course leaves me with a window into the unknown where I am forced to rest upon my laurels in order to make sense of this new age term.
In other circles of the universe, a set-up is defined as, “the way in which something, especially an organization or equipment, is organized, planned, or arranged.” Another way to define a set-up according to google is, “a scheme or trick intended to incriminate or deceive someone.” In searching for some kind of framework to liken these definitions to the sports entertainment world, according to the onlineworldofwrestling.com wrestling database of dictionary terms a “work” is defined as the word, “used to describe aspects of events of the business that aren’t real.”
The 2016 investigative report by journalist Benjamin Best titled, “Dirty Game – The Dark Side of Sports” gives great insight into the anatomy of the fight game. Former Leon Spinks boxing manager Charles Farrell went on to describe how the sports entertainment industry works behind the curtain, stating, “You fix fights to make betting money. You fix fights to get a fighter a championship. You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks toward a championship fight.” According to Farrell, “You fix fights to win, in order, again, to position someone strategically. You fix fights to lose, in order to get paid and in order to make, you know, betting coups. The way you fix fights varies greatly.”
Whatever you want to call the Hardy fight, whether it’s a set-up fight or weird, one thing is for sure; that is the fans were left scratching their heads and wanting more. The “Just Bleed God” is very unhappy as the tomato cans left at the alter of sacrifice have proven to be cheap, generic versions of the real thing. If the UFC thinks they are going to sell the public a product with a subpar tomato sauce, they have another thing coming.
The UFC can only keep opening up cheap, watered down tomato cans for so long before the public refuses to buy what they’re selling anymore. I would like to see Greg Hardy take a step up in competition, he clearly isn’t ready for the top ten yet, but putting him in there with a fighter who has a pulse would be why we are tuning into Greg Hardy’s fights to begin with. Anyone can beat a corpse up, let’s see how Hardy does when he’s tested with an opponent who has a pulse.
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