That’s a bold claim about a fighter who has three straight first-round finishes in the UFC Octagon. But for all his bold claims and bravado, Hardy does know what it’s like to hobnob with pro sports stars. He was a controversial NFL player himself for years.
And Hardy recently met up with one of the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Florida’s American Top Team (ATT) shared a photo of Hardy and former UFC champ Junior dos Santos standing alongside Shaquille O’Neal on their official Instagram. It’s safe to say the basketball Hall of Famer absolutely dwarfed the otherwise massive MMA fighters.
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Hardy was last seen destroying Juan Adams on the main card of July 20’s UFC San Antonio. While it was indeed his second straight first-round knockout, he still has a long way to go until he’s ranked among the best UFC heavies. Training with a decorated former champion like dos Santos will certainly help him get there much faster.
‘Cigano’ was last seen getting smoked by Ngannou, which could perhaps be the source of at least some of Hardy’s callout for “The Predator.” If they ever end up fighting, it would assuredly be one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in quite some time.
Ngannou is a huge challenge, so maybe Hardy is looking for the biggest training partners he can. While O’Neal fits that bill, he’s also retired from competition while Ngannou is at the elite peak of MMA right now. In that sense, Shaq’s voyage to train at ATT may have been more from a symbolic and/or PR standpoint.