LAS VEGAS -- Ex-NFL player Greg Hardy was awarded a contract with the UFC after scoring a first-round knockout in his professional MMA debut Tuesday night, UFC president Dana White said.
White made the announcement during the broadcast of the "Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series," shortly after Hardy, 29, knocked out Austen Lane (2-1) in just 57 seconds in their heavyweight bout.
Details of Hardy's contract were not immediately known, although White said he wants to give him more time to develop and gain experience before entering the UFC's heavyweight ranks.
"It's awesome news," Hardy said. "I get an opportunity to show what I've got, go back and work hard and come back even better than before. It's exciting. It's everything I could ask for.
"I just want to get back in the ring. Whatever show it is, I just want another opportunity to fight. Man, I'm having the time of my life and really enjoying it."
Hardy, of Millington, Tennessee, dropped Lane to his knee with a straight right hand. Lane, a former NFL player himself, immediately popped to his feet, only to eat a follow-up left hook that ended the fight.
Fighting out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, Hardy went 3-0 with three first-round knockouts as an amateur before Tuesday's pro debut.
"I'm ready for the big show," he said. "I train with the best gym in the world, and I have full confidence and faith that those guys are there to get me ready for whatever comes next."
Light heavyweight Alonzo Menifield, who scored a first-round knockout win Tuesday, also will be signed by the UFC.
The UFC's decision to offer Hardy an opportunity on the contender series has been met with some criticism because of Hardy's past. He was exiled from the NFL in 2015 because of off-the-field legal issues involving domestic violence and drug possession.
Hardy was convicted of assault and communicating threats in 2014, but the charges were later expunged from his record after the victim failed to appear in court for a jury trial during his appeal. Hardy has denied ever hitting a woman, but four dozen photographs of the woman that were evidence in the trial and later published online by Deadspin show bruises to her chin, neck, arms, back, legs and feet.
In an interview Friday, Hardy referred to White as "an angel" for giving him an opportunity. White has said that Hardy has turned his life around and deserves a second chance.
Hardy is a former All-Pro defensive lineman who played for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys.
Lane suffered the first loss of his pro career. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 and left the league in 2014.