Greg Hardy Brings Out Peak Dana White
The UFC president is often at his worst when dealing with domestic violence
On Saturday, convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy got his first UFC win.
The loser was a man named Dmitrii Smoliakov, has never once exhibited anything close to the kind of skill required to be in the UFC (or used to be required, anyway; the phrase “ready for the UFC” lost its meaning long ago). This lack of talent earned him a UFC contract, at least for one night, because Hardy needed a win.
White has long said that domestic abusers have no place in his company, and that you don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman. Like nearly everything that comes out of White’s mouth these days, this is bullshit. He left out the next sentence, which is: unless they have star power or name value.
If you are Will Chope—who was cut from the UFC the night before his scheduled fight after I reported on his dismissal from the Air Force for domestic assault—you are done forever. Gone. But if you are someone with a higher profile such as Abel Trujillo, a two-time convicted abuser of the mother of his children, or a crowd-pleaser like Anthony Johnson—who was convicted of domestic violence in 2010 and then had a restraining order filed against him in 2012 by the mother of his children after allegedly knocking out two of her teeth—you bounce back just fine.
And if you are Hardy—who seems to possess none of the remorse Chope showed, and certainly none of the skill, but who was a former NFL star—you get featured bouts on ESPN against opponents who emerged from a worldwide talentless search.
You also get a promoter willing to say anything it takes to defend your inclusion in high-profile spots, even if it means looking like a bag of dicks for booking you on the same card as a recent survivor of domestic assault.
I guess he had a real bad drug and alcohol problem. He started to get into MMA. Cleaned himself up. If you talk to anybody he trains with, male or female, they say that he’s a very good guy. He’s very humble. Everybody deserves a second chance. And the guy was never charged with anything, he was never sentenced or anything like that. We’re going to give him a shot.
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve spoken to several of Hardy’s teammates, both male and female. They don’t say he’s a good guy. They don’t say he’s humble, either, though you can glean that for yourself just by watching him or listening to literally anything he says. He was charged, and he was sentenced by a judge. Hardy appealed and the woman refused to testify against him in court after Hardy paid her in a civil settlement, so the charges were dropped. This doesn’t mean you get to pretend it never happened.
But White has a long history of this. Here’s what he said to the International Business Times in 2014, right after the Johnson story broke.
Since we started 'The Ultimate Fighter' we've done full background checks on all the guys coming in. If they ever had anything, any violence against women, they didn't get on. We've been all over [the Anthony Johnson case] and when you move as fast as we move, and the things we've been doing, it's hard to police thousands of guys and know what exactly is going on but as soon as we've found information on guys, we've acted. Of course, the way we always react is morally first then the business second.
They weren’t all over the Anthony Johnson case. He was suspended, but then—and tell me if this sounds familiar—the woman who alleged Johnson attacked her dismissed her complaint voluntarily. Johnson’s suspension was lifted and he returned to the roster. All the while, he still had that conviction back in 2010, but everyone ignored it.
The real kicker of Dana’s quote is how he starts the final sentence with of course, as though he’s about to say something that is obvious to everyone, because he immediately says something that isn’t true. The UFC has never acted morally first and business second. To claim otherwise is hilariously untrue. But then, White’s reputation for falsehoods is so ingrained that, when he says something isn’t happening, or says a thing is not true, the automatic social media joke is that he’s confirming its veracity.
I often wonder: Does he think anybody believes a word he’s saying?
So Hardy beat Smoliakov, because that’s why Smoliakov was there. He was there to lose and to not fuck up the UFC’s plan. The first guy brought in to lose to Hardy, Allen Crowder, won by DQ after Hardy got tired and drilled Crowder with an “accidental” illegal knee that looked anything but accidental.
This time around, it went according to plan. White then went to meet with the media—and I’ve heard a lot of bullshit in my days covering this sport, but this one is up there with the best of them—and said this about Smoliakov:
I’m not gonna say that I love that fight. You guys know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. We’ve don’t do setup fights for anybody. And if I was a fan, and probably some of the media, the way some of the media acts, I don’t know who the fuck that guy beat in nine fights, but I’d like to see the nine guys he beat.
Obviously White was thrilled with the fight, because he got the result he wanted. He gets to keep pretending Hardy deserves a place on the UFC roster. And the UFC does do setup fights. Not as often as they did in PRIDE or in boxing. But they do happen, because this was a goddamn setup fight, and it wasn’t the firs one. Hell, it wasn’t even the first one Hardy has been involved in this year.
But the real shitty part is how he subtly blamed UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, who searched the world to find someone with the rare mixture of almost no skill and enough fights to appear respectable on paper. They did their jobs, and then White got to pretend he was just as horrified as the rest of us, like he had no idea how this guy ended up on one of his fight cards.
He did say one true thing, though. I’m sure he wants to see the nine guys Smoliakov beat. I’m sure whomever manages those nine fighters will be getting a call from the UFC somebody. Because it means there are nine more opponents out there for Greg Hardy to beat.
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