TORONTO – Incoming UFC heavyweight Greg Hardy will get a reaction for a while when he fights, maybe always.
But when Hardy was announced for a January fight against Allen Crowder for his promotional debut at UFC on ESPN+ 1, the reaction was perhaps a lot more robust than normal.
Hardy, a former NFL standout, is a lightning rod of sorts as a fighter, given his history with domestic violence. So when he was booked on the same card as Rachael Ostovich, there were more than a few outcries.
Ostovich is in the throes of her own issues with an alleged domestic violence incident with her husband, who is facing an assault charge in Hawaii. Ostovich was granted an order of protection from him as a result. The optics of Hardy fighting on the same card with Ostovich, people said, were not good for the UFC.
But UFC President Dana White on Thursday defended Hardy's spot on the card.
"First of all, when you say, 'People started reacting,' let's put that into context," White told MMAjunkie. "It wasn't like that at all. People weren't reacting. … It really wasn't an issue. It was with a couple of people. And if you want to turn anything into an issue, you can if you want to turn something into an issue. The only person that matters didn't have an issue with it, and that's all that matters to me."
At Wednesday's UFC 231 news conference in Toronto, media members reportedly were asked to not ask White about anything aside from the main and co-main events, which had their fighters in attendance.
White said that's where the reactions were coming from, and that it merely was the UFC wanting to give Saturday's fighters their due at their news conference – and save non-UFC 231 topics for a later time.
But no matter how the UFC arrived at Hardy and Ostovich on the same card, or when the explanation was given as to why, White said the topic will come up again down the road – and that he wouldn't have made the call to have Hardy fight in Brooklyn without letting Ostovich in on it in advance.
"He's on the roster. He's going to be on the card with lots of different people," White said. "If this guy is good enough, and he's able to stick around here in the UFC, he's going to be on the card with lots of different people. It is what it is. I made the decision to sign this guy and bring him in.
"Obviously when we did this fight, I wouldn't have done that without talking to Rachael first. And I did, and she was awesome about it. She said, 'Listen, his story isn't my story. Everybody's story is different, and I believe in second chances. I have no problem fighting on the card with this guy, and this guy's never done anything to me.'"
UFC on ESPN+ 1 takes place Jan. 19 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ostovich will be fighting Paige VanZant.
It will be the UFC's debut on ESPN, which is its new broadcast partner after a seven-year deal with FOX comes to an end later this month.
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