Former WWE superstar Jack Swagger, real name Jake Hager, addressed the press ahead of Bellator 192, discussing his transition to MMA under the Bellator banner.
The wrestling to MMA transition has been a long tradition, dating back to fighters like Ken Shamrock, who actually wrestled in the late 80s/early 90s prior to embarking on his mixed martial arts career. Since then, wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley, CM Punk, and even Dave Bautista have made the jump, to varying levels of success.
Next up is Jake Hager, better known to WWE fans as Jack Swagger. Hager signed with Bellator MMA last year, and has yet to make his debut. While no premiere date is set for the heavyweight, he spoke to the media, with Cageside Press in attendance, prior to Bellator taking over The Forum in L.A. on Saturday.
“I understand that I have to go out there and prove everything” Hager said of making the jump from a predetermined show to combat sports. “Everything is just talk, everything is just me signing a contract right now. So right now I have to go out there and back it up, and it’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“Personally I feel very confident doing it. I know it’s a big risk leaving a professional wrestling career and jumping over into professional fighting,” he continued, “but no big reward comes without a big risk. Bellator’s doing a great thing here, as soon as I started talking with them, it felt like the right place to be. So I’m excited.”
Swagger does have an impressive amateur wrestling background, of course, which puts him closer to the Brock Lesnar/Bobby Lashley side of things than the CM Punk side. “Amateur wrestling is a huge part of my life” said Hager, and rest assured, he’ll be relying on that strength early on. But when might that debut come?
“I want to fight in 2018 for sure. I almost want to fight twice. That’s a bold statement,” he admitted, “but I don’t want to waste any time. I want to jump in there, I feel like I’m in good shape now. I feel like in six months, in the summertime, I’ll be ready to make a statement.”
As for who he might face, and whether Hager would be interesting in claiming a spot as an alternate in Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix, the wrestler said that “I’m preparing for anybody right now. There’s going to be a steep learning curve, and I’m ready for that.”
As for how he’ll be introduced, he joked “Former world heavyweight champion Jack Swagger and new Bellator heavyweight Jake Hager.”
Hager, meanwhile, will still be competing in pro wrestling, for now in the U.K., as it’s “paying the bills” prior to his first fight in Bellator.