A week or so before Juan Adams fought Arjan Bhullar on a Fight Night card in Ottawa, Ontario, a reporter asked UFC president Dana White what he thought of Adams.
Adams had earned a contract on White’s “Contender Series,” but at the first mention of his name, White drew a blank. He struggled to recall briefly and then said, “Oh, you mean the guy who’s talking so much s--- about Greg Hardy?”
Yeah, that Juan Adams.
Adams mounted a campaign months earlier blasting Hardy, both for his brushes with the law — Hardy lost his NFL job with the Carolina Panthers because of a domestic violence case that earned a great deal of attention — and for what Adams said were his lack of skills.
Though Adams lost a close fight to Bhullar in Ottawa, he got out of it what he’d hoped to get: The UFC booked him to fight Hardy. And his moment of reckoning arrives on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the AT&T Center in San Antonio when the heavyweights square off.
Adams has posted a hashtag “#F---GregHardy,” all over his social media feed. He wore a blue-patterned romper with a bright pink T-shirt underneath. Emblazoned on the front of the T-shirt when he checked in to begin his fight week with the UFC was his anti-Hardy hashtag.
He’s never been shy about dissing Hardy when he speaks with the media. After talking as much as Adams has, people expect him to back it up when he’s alone in the cage with Hardy.
Still, he said it hasn’t added any pressure as fight night draws closer.
“Not at all,” Adams said when asked if he felt the pressure mounting. “He’s nowhere near my level. If it were a higher level opponent, I might feel pressure, but I don’t. I feel like this is a gift.”
Adams is 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the UFC. His statistics are good — he’s hit both of the takedowns he’s attempted, and he’s connected on 60 percent of his significant strikes.
Hardy is a great athlete who not only was an All-Pro with the Panthers, but who played a season of college basketball at the University of Mississippi in addition to starring for the Rebels in football.
White is excited about his potential as a fighter. Hardy finds Adams’ personal campaign against him strange.
“Do you find it odd that another man’s talking about somebody he’s not even fighting?” Hardy asked. “This guy, I don’t know much about him. He’s a kid. What he’s doing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but if he wants to focus there, God bless him. I guess this is the only way he has to promote, because if his ability and his skills can’t get him fans or followers and the big fight he wants, I guess he has to do it how he thinks he has to do it.
“I got my clout by being one of the hardest-working people on all of the planet and being the best at my position, being the one percent among the one percent. So I can’t make heads or tails about what he’s doing, and I’m not going to waste any energy trying.”
Hardy, though, insists he’s not taking Adams’ taunts personally. To him, the fight game is a business and he’s going to keep it that way.
He has no more motivation, he said, to beat Adams because of Adams’ trash talk than he would have otherwise.
“I take it about as personally as I do when my 7-month-old throws up on me,” Hardy said. “Children are going to be children and they’re going to act out. They do what they need to do to get attention. I’m a grown man. I’m one of the best athletes on the planet. There is no reason to address this. I’ve taken this kind of ridicule and had shots thrown at me for the last two decades. It’s nothing to me. Nothing.”
Adams, though, sees it the other way. In addition to griping about Hardy’s issues with domestic violence, he’s complained that Hardy has been given easy foes and has been propped up for success.
He said that beating a high-profile opponent like Hardy will benefit him in the long run.
“It just solidifies my brand a little more and it definitely pushes me over a lot more,” Adams said. “I’ll win over a lot of the people who have been hesitant to be on my side because of all of the crap that I’ve talked. But at the end of the day, man, this is a personal thing for me.
“A win over him means [I have] two victories in the UFC and that I’m just that much closer to getting on to my next contract.”
And so Adams said he’ll fight confidently, believing he’ll win and is prepared to avoid Hardy’s power.
Every heavyweight, he noted, hits hard so that doesn’t make Hardy special. If he avoids getting caught, Adams said he’ll cruise to victory.
“Honestly, as long as I avoid his right hand, I’m going to win this fight,” Adams said. “If I hit him first, I win this fight. I definitely don’t think he’s ever fought anyone on my level. My opponents have been at a higher level than his opponents; my opponents, to be honest with you, are at a higher level than him.
“It’s nothing new to me. Every heavyweight out there can put you out. I’ll go out there and it will be less about worrying about what he does and more about making him respond to what I do.”
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