UFC 249’s Greg Hardy: Criticism Comes with “Greatest Show on Earth”

Heading into UFC 249, Greg Hardy admits that he’s terrified.

Not of opponent Yorgan De Castro. But of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — to which Hardy is theoretically more susceptible, due to an underlying condition, asthma.

“I’m terrified. But you know that’s not going to stop me from paving the way,” Hardy told media outlets including Cageside Press at Thursday’s UFC 249 virtual media day. “It’s not going to stop me from making sure my boss has the most entertaining fight, first back on TV out of all sports. This is the biggest event, it needs the biggest athletes.”

Hardy the athlete is without a number of his coaches heading into this fight. That’s not entirely the result of the coronavirus pandemic, he explained. For one, coach Din Thomas opted to leave American Top Team recently. So Hardy will have some fresh faces in his corner this weekend.

There’s been some criticism regarding the placement of Hardy’s fight on the main card. Hardy and de Castro open up the PPV portion of the show. While he’s coming off a co-main event appearance against Alexander Volkov last year, the reality is — and Hardy himself admitted it Thursday — he’s essentially still a rookie. 2-2 in the UFC, along with a no contest.

“Wait, I was criticized?” Hardy said with a laugh when asked about that criticism. “I’m used to it, brother. It’s supposed to be. This is the greatest show on earth. If it wasn’t criticized, it means we don’t have enough fans out there.”

And of course, with controversy comes eyeballs, as is usually the case. “I think that everybody that criticizes is going to tune in,” said Hardy. “They’re gonna see Francis [Ngannou], they’re going to see all these guys. They’re going to see [Cowboy] Cerrone, they’re going to see Charlie Rosa, they’re going to see the entertainment value go through the roof, and blow the top off of Jacksonville. They’re going to be wondering when the next one’s going to be.”

If he has his way, the next one for Hardy will be soon. He’s spoken of appearing on Dana White’s Fight Island, competing week in and week out. Five or six fights this year. It’s a tall order. Maybe a throwback to his NFL days, where he was used to competing each and every week. Asked about that, Hardy replied simply that “I was made for this. I was built, I was constructed as one of the best athletes in the world to do this. To be consistent, consecutive. To be volatile. All the time.”

He holds the ability, suggested Hardy, to switch it off and on each week. “That’s my best attribute as a UFC fighter, and I think if anyone could do it, it would have to be me.”

Greg Hardy returns this Saturday at UFC 249, taking on the undefeated Yorgan de Castro. The event takes place live on PPV, following televised and online prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ (TSN in Canada).