Former NFL player Greg Hardy has had a sordid journey from contact sports to combat sports, and it just became a fateful one. Hardy made his bare-knuckle boxing debut at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships’ Knucklemania 3 over the weekend. Instead of living up to the hype, he tasted the canvas via the ungloved hand of a relative unknown, Josh Watson.
It all started in the first round when Hardy overcommitted on a left hook that missed, and a returning left hook of Watson touched his exposed chin. The shot sent Hardy reeling into the ropes and subject to a standing count by referee Dan Miragliotta.
Hardy would make it to the second round, but that would only last a short while. At the 1:52 mark of the second round, Watson delivered another looping left hook that smashed Hardy square on the right side of his face, sending him reeling to the canvas.
Watson is only 2-1 and currently on a two-fight KO win streak as a bare-knuckle fighter with the hard finish over Hardy. He had a 10-year mixed martial arts career where he went 6-4; his last MMA fight was in 2013. The win over Hardy went against the odds, and now Watson has elevated his stature in the still-developing bare-knuckle sports field.
The New Fighters
Best known for his five-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys, Hardy made it to the Pro Bowl in 2015.
He stepped into the MMA world in 2017 and had a 3-0 amateur career, all knockouts. That level of performance, mixed with his former NFL stature, garnered him fights on Dana White’s Contender series, where he fought twice before losing his official UFC debut and lost via disqualification from delivering an illegal knee in the second round to Allen Crowder in 2019.
Hardy went 7-5-1 and lost his last three fights via knockout before exiting the UFC. Hardy immediately transitioned to boxing and is currently 2-0 as a professional boxer. The most recent KO was his foray into bare-knuckle boxing, but thus far, although he has a winning record, Hardy has yet to get the traction he wanted from the career pivot. His latest loss relegates him to looking like a sideshow.
Many former football players have transitioned from the gridiron to the squared circle. Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, and even Adrian Peterson have fulfilled their pugilism dreams, and Bell and Gore are committed to staying the course in the fight game.
Last May, former NFL running back Frank Gore proved he was taking boxing seriously when he delivered a crushing face-plant knockout during his professional boxing debut.
Gore debuted against opponent Yaya Olorunsola in Saturday’s Gamebred Boxing 1 event in Jackson, Mississippi, promoted by UFC fighter Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. Gore flexed his combat sports chops landing a crisp two-punch combination that ended in a vicious right cross that dropped Olorunsola, who fell stiff onto the canvas in the fourth round of the co-main event.
Gore is now 2-0 and still enraptured with the possibilities of what could be in the squared circle. Hardy, on the other end, is a reality check across multiple combat disciplines that you cannot play fighting.