Greg Hardy needed just 57 seconds to leave an impression on UFC president Dana White in his professional mixed martial arts debut on Tuesday night.
The much-maligned former defensive end recorded a first-round knockout of fellow NFL alumni Austen Lane during "Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series" at the UFC's Ultimate Fighter gym in Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old Hardy (1-0) earned a UFC contract from White -- along with light heavyweight Alonzo Menifield who scored a knockout in just eight seconds -- but it will be a developmental deal where Hardy could fight outside of the promotion to gain more experience before he fights under the UFC banner. If White's reaction means anything, the former Carolina Panther and Dallas Cowboy seems to have a bright future.
"Hardy has no experience, tonight was his first professional fight … but man he can punch," White said after the event. "Obviously, there's a lot more to that guy … so what we're gonna do is we're going to bring Hardy in and put him on a … This guy is going to need more experience, and we've done this before.
"I don't know if he goes away, we've talked about some ideas to help this guy grow and he's already with a great team. He's with Dan Lambert and his crew down in Florida. Now he just needs some experience."
Training out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, Hardy recorded first-round stoppages in all three of his amateur fights after walking away from the NFL in 2015 seeking a fresh start. At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, he very much looked the part of menacing MMA heavyweight against Lane, who was a fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010.
"This is definitely the top feeling I've probably ever had," Hardy said after winning the contract. "There's nothing like being in the Octagon and facing another man. Transitioning has been some of the hardest work I've ever done and it's made it 10 times sweeter."
Hardy was warned for an eye poke in the opening seconds after the two traded punches. But a sweeping right hook from Hardy caught Lane, 30, perfectly on the chin and dropped him to one knee. Lane, who appeared to be out on his feet as he rose up, partially turned his back to Hardy just as a left hook caught him flush in the face to floor him again. Referee Mark Smith instantly called off the fight.
"Austen came out fighting hard like I thought he would," Hardy said. "It was just a great fight and I got lucky. I did what I was supposed to do and it worked out.
"I just saw him leaning. My coaches have always been working with me on the hook, coming over and keeping my head behind my shoulders and finish it hard. That's what I did. I took the coaching and got the finish."
Hardy comes to MMA with plenty of baggage stemming from 2014 arrest for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, which led to a lengthy football suspension. But despite the recent outcry from critics that Hardy is undeserving of the opportunity and UFC should avoid the negative public relations that comes with giving him a tryout, Hardy told media members on Monday that he's only here "because Dana White is an angel."
"This means everything," Hardy said. "It's awesome. I don't really have the words, I'm just super excited. I'm just really glad I got the opportunity."