While he’s competing as Jake Hager at Bellator 214, former WWE star Jack Swagger may fight under his ring name soon enough. In the meantime, he still has a certain, well, swagger about him.
Los Angeles, CA — Bellator 214 is a big night for the promotion’s heavyweight division. Of course, there’s the main event, the finale of the World Heavyweight Grand Prix. The legendary Fedor Emelianenko against Ryan Bader. And there is the debut of former WWE champion Jack Swagger, real name Jake Hager.
“Saturday it’s going to be Jake Hager getting into the cage,” he told Cageside Press on Thursday, “but hopefully soon in the future, it’s going to be Jack Swagger.” Hager the individual, of course, is an accomplished collegiate athlete. Swagger, the pro wrestling superstar, is the name people remember. The draw, so it makes sense for Hager to hang onto it.
Pro wrestling will be in the background this weekend however. It’s the first time being in the cage with an opponent in a live fight for Hager. Something deceptively hard to prep for. “I don’t know if there’s anything to do to actually prepare for that, especially if you’ve never done it before,” Hager explained. “It’s one of those things, you just have to get in there, you have to earn the experience. I’m 100% committed to going out there and earning everything that I get. I’m really looking forward to the experience.”
That said, while it’s Hager’s first time fighting in the cage, it is far from his first time going one-on-one with an opponent, for real. Hager wrestled for the University of Oklahoma, where he was a two-sport athlete early on, joining the football team as well. He’d go on to become an NCAA All-American in wrestling, which would become his focus.
“I have been in fights before, I have been in places where you line up against someone else, and find out who’s better than the other person,” he said, in reference to that background. “So I’m going to rely on that experience as a huge asset for me.”
Hager’s enthusiasm for this new endeavor has shone through during fight week. In short, Jack Swagger has had a certain amount of swagger about him, and he’s clearly happy to be here.
“I am happy, and I am excited right now. Part of that is because I feel like I’ve already won.”
“It’s been an incredible journey for me to get here,” he told us. “If you look at Jack Swagger at the end of 2016, he wasn’t in a bad place, but he wasn’t in a good place,” Hager explained. “So this journey has been special for me for so many reasons, and one of the main ones is that it allowed me to better myself. I know a hundred percent that I am better than my past self now. Mentally, physically, family, everything. This training and preparing for this has helped me improve so many areas of my life, to the fact that I am happy, and I am excited right now.”
Part of that, Hager added, is “because I feel like I’ve already won. Because of that, because of that journey that I’ve gone on.” Still, he recognizes that the journey is far from over. His fight Saturday is far from the end. “I know the journey’s not over, and I want it to continue more.”
That is not to say that Hager isn’t happy with where he’s at. “There’s certain aspects that you have to sit back and say ‘hey, you’re doing good,’ and be proud of that,” he explained. “I think in this day and age with the instant gratification of our societies, that gets lost a lot in translation and the ‘you want it now.’ I’m just so proud of the hard work, I’m so proud of my team, and I just look forward to going out there and getting better.”
The next step in what could be a long and interesting journey in MMA comes at Bellator 214 on Saturday night, when Hager/Swagger makes his debut against J.W. Kiser. The fight takes place on the evening’s main card, airing live on Paramount Network and DAZN.