Tom Sorensen

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was right to boot Greg Hardy. He’s landed in UFC.

Greg Hardy played his final NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. The Cowboys did not invite him back.
Greg Hardy played his final NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. The Cowboys did not invite him back. AP

Greg Hardy, the former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end, is tentatively scheduled to make his professional mixed martial arts debut June 12 in Las Vegas. He’ll go against Brandon Sayles, who is 5-1 and has won three straight. The bout will be part of UFC’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The idea is to identify the next good fighters and reward them with a contract.

Hardy has had three amateur fights and quickly ended each. His opponents lasted 0:14, 1:36 and 0:32. His amateur career lasted two minutes and 22 seconds.

If you were in Charlotte when Hardy played for the Panthers, you remember him. If you were in Charlotte in 2014, you certainly remember him.

A judge found Hardy guilty of domestic violence — assaulting his then girlfriend Nicole Holder. Hardy appealed and when Holder didn’t testify, the charges ultimately were removed from his record. A source says Hardy and Holder reached a settlement before the trial.

Jerry Richardson, the beleaguered Panthers owner, decided that Hardy no longer would be part of his team. There are stories that the NFL made the decision to dump Hardy. They’re wrong. Richardson did.

Greg Hardy addressed reporters after his Cowboys debut against the Patriots on Sunday. Video by Drew Davison. The Star-Telegram

The NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games, but reduced the suspension to four.

Hardy played his final NFL season for the Cowboys in 2015. The Cowboys did not invite him back. Hardy then played for the Richmond Rough Riders of the American Arena League.

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About the MMA fight: Hardy is a big man, 6-5 and about 265 pounds. Sayles is 6-5 and about 298 pounds.

Hardy is 29. Sayles is 39.

Hardy is ex-NFL. Sayles is a three-time U.S. Army combatives champ, and a U.S. Army combatives instructor in Fort Benning, Ga.

Hardy is one of the most imposing athletes, regardless of sport, I’ve encountered. He had a Panthers’ record 15 sacks in 2013. I stood next to him in a Bank of America hallway and thought, “Who could block him?”

If you were listing the toughest Panthers of all time, Hardy would be a candidate.

If you were listing the Panthers that most deserved to be booted off the team and out of the league, Hardy would be near the top.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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