Bellator 221: Jake Hager Feels Wrestling Needs More Matches Like Burroughs vs. Askren

Jack Swagger, a.k.a. Jake Hager, returns this Saturday at Bellator 221 in Chicago, where he’ll look to replicate the success of his MMA debut.

Chicago, IL — The WWE star formerly known as Jack Swagger, properly Jake Hager, is set to return to action at Bellator 221. After showing some promise in his debut fight earlier this year, Hager is once again paired up with a virtually unknown opponent. T.J. Jones is 1-1 as a pro, but hasn’t fought since 2017. Still, not a bad idea, given Hager is just 1-0 in the fight game, and getting a late start to his career.

“I’m feeling good,” Hager told Cageside Press on Thursday, ahead of his sophomore trip to the Bellator cage. He’s having a bit of fun under the spotlight, quipping that “I always enjoy being in front of the bright lights and the cameras, because I’ve got a great head of hair.”

In all seriousness, however, Hager/Swagger sees his time in the pro wrestling world as giving him a boost when it comes to fighting. “The WWE is one of the biggest stages on the planet. The WWE Universe is global,” he pointed out.

“I definitely rely on my experience there to help me here, especially on fight night. I treat it very similar to a PPV, or Monday Night RAW.” In other words, no performance anxiety, at least not due to the size of the show.

“This is a lot of fun,” Hager admitted. “I’ve always been kind of a guy that’s calm before the storm. I’m kind of a quiet guy.”

As to the keys to his success, Hager, a decorated wrestler in college, pointed out that “I’ve been doing this throughout my whole life. I was never the best athlete, I was never the strongest, I was never the fastest. But I learned from a young age how to be coached, how to stay focused.”

Like many fighters with wrestling backgrounds, Hager had his eye on the recent wrestling match between Ben Askren and Jordan Burroughs.

“Yes I did [watch it]. I was very impressed with Jordan Burroughs,” Hager said. “I think nobody kind of expected that result. Whether it’s wrestling, whether it’s boxing, whether it’s MMA, you have to stay consistent at what you do, because there are levels to it. Right now, Jordan is the top level.”

Hager sees matches like this as key to the sport of wrestling. No doubt the sport is close to his heart, given his own run in college. “Ever since the Olympics try to outlaw wrestling from it, I think you saw the amateur wrestling community surge in popularity,” he suggested, “and they’ve really used that as motivation to really put it on the map. And solidify it as one of the greatest sports in the world. Beats the Streets was a great example of that. We need more high profile wrestling matches like that. Because I think if anything, Jordan and Ben proved people want to see it.”

Would Hager himself like to compete? “I wouldn’t hesitate,” he answered, naming Kyle Snyder as a possible name he’d be interested in.