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Greg Hardy And The UFC’s History Of Dealing With Domestic Violence


The UFC’s decision to include former NFL player
Greg Hardy on the second season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series has drawn a
lot of criticism from fans and the media since the news of his inclusion was announced in
April of 2018. For those who are unaware, Hardy was arrested
on domestic violence charges in 2014 and sentenced to 60 days in jail. That sentence was overturned on appeal when
the victim didn’t show up for court, with the district attorney’s office saying “The
State further has reliable information that [the victim] has reached a civil settlement
with the defendant.” Hardy went on to sign a 11.3 million dollar
one year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, but disturbing photos and 911 recordings from
the incident led to the NFL trying to suspend Hardy for 10 games. They ended up settling with a 4 game suspension
to avoid a legal fight, and Hardy wasn’t invited to play for the Cowboys the following season. So why is the UFC giving Greg Hardy a shot? What is their history when it comes to athletes
involved with domestic assault? Mixed martial arts is a sport with a troubling
connection to domestic abuse. According to a 2015 documentary from HBO’s
Real Sports, the volume of domestic violence arrests for MMA fighters [is at a rate of
750 in every 100,000], compared to the national rate of around 360 per 100,000 men, and 210
per 100,000 in the NFL. A number of active UFC fighters have been
charged with domestic assault, with various responses from the company. In 2014, the UFC cut featherweight Will Chope
after the organization learned he [was discharged from the Air Force for multiple instances
of assault against] his wife in 2009. In 2016, welterweight Michael Graves was suspended
and eventually released by the UFC after being charged with misdemeanor battery (family violence). According to police reports, Graves punched
and elbowed his fiance in the head during an argument. Following Will Chope’s release, White explained
the UFC’s general policy. “We’re going to have situations where guys
have some incidents,” he said. “It depends on how big your incident is. they’re not all going to be the same … it’s
a case by case basis and it depends on how bad it is.” As White said, not every fighter with a guilty
record on these kinds of charges is let go. Abel Trujillo pled guilty to two counts of
domestic violence back in 2007, but was still signed to the UFC in 2012 and remains on the
roster to this day. Anthony Lapsley, who fought for the UFC in
2013 and 2014, had three separate convictions. Cody East was signed through Dana White’s
Lookin’ For A Fight despite having been sentenced to three years in prison on child abuse charges. Shortly after losing twice and being released
by the UFC, he was arrested for aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. A 911 call captured the moment where he kicked
down a bathroom door to attack his girlfriend. “He’s breaking in,” she said on the call. “Please. Oh my god, he’s opening it. I gotta go. Please!” There’s also Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, who
was charged in 2009 with domestic violence, battery, death threats and destroying a phone
to prevent the report of a crime. In the end Johnson pleaded no contest to a
misdemeanor charge of domestic violence and [was] sentenced to three years probation,
community service, and domestic violence counseling. Johnson fought for the UFC twice in the months
immediately after his arrest and was given another fight six months after his conviction. In 2014 Rumble would be suspended by the UFC
after the mother of his children claimed he knocked out her front teeth. Two months later her civil case was dropped
and the UFC reinstated him. Perhaps the most disturbing case involved
light heavyweight Thiago Silva, who got into an armed standoff with SWAT officers in 2014
after allegedly threatening to shoot up [a] jiu-jitsu academy [with] his wife [inside]. The UFC released Silva, but several months
later the charges were dropped because Silva’s wife left for Brazil and refused to return
and testify. [deleted So]The UFC re-signed him, with a
statement from Dana White on UFC.com saying “He was acquitted of all charges. How do you not let the guy fight again? He went through the legal process and came
out of it untainted.” A week later, Silva’s wife shared cell phone
footage with Brazilian media of him brandishing a handgun and threatening to ‘give her a bullet.’ Details from the original arrest report also
resurfaced including accusations he put the gun in her mouth and threatened to murder
her. The UFC quickly re-released Silva. After this incident, the organization changed
their way of handling serious criminal issues. The new procedure involved suspending a fighter
when a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct occured. From there, law firm Campbell & Williams conducts
an investigation and advises the UFC on a course of action. Several UFC athletes have gone through this
process with domestic violence accusations and have been cleared to return to fighting,
including Travis Browne, Michael Johnson, and Alex Nicholson. Not much is known about the investigation
process, but Travis Browne spoke about it shortly after being reinstated. “It wasn’t a legal investigation,” Browne
said. “I couldn’t be like, ‘Oh, talk to my lawyer.’ It was like, ‘So this is where we’re at.’ They said this is gonna be tougher than going
through the legal process, because there’s nothing to cover my butt. There’s no laws. You want your job? You have to volunteer, because somebody made
up lies about you.” Getting back to Greg Hardy, his signing to
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series isn’t exactly an out of the blue thing. Dana White has been more than willing to talk
to the press regarding Hardy, and was open to giving him a shot as far back as 2016. “I’m one of those guys too who believes that
we’re all human beings and we all make mistakes,” White told Fox Sports 1. “And when you make a mistake, you pay your
penance, whatever it might be, and you should be allowed to make a living and move on in
your life.” In the event leading up to Hardy’s Contender
Series debut, White had this to say: “I guess he had a real bad drug and alcohol
problem. 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.” White is technically correct that Greg Hardy’s
sentence was overturned on appeal. But the questionable circumstances surrounding
the whole situation are enough to draw attention and criticism to how the UFC handles the issue
of domestic violence in MMA in general. While their policy of independent investigations
is a positive step in the right direction, the Hardy case highlights a history of the
UFC being willing to overlook troubling evidence and side with their fighters if a court doesn’t
end up convicting them.

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