English Ex-Rugby Star James Haskell Signs with Bellator MMA

James Haskell
James Haskell Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA is hoping to develop another crossover star, having signed a deal with former Rugby player James Haskell.

A few days back, Bellator MMA teased a new signing. In a press release scarce on details, the promotion invited media outlets to a press conference August 28 that would include their newest roster member, hosted at Viacom’s office in London. While many guessed they might be announcing the arrival of Cris Cyborg, the English angle threw pundits for a loop. That, and the accompanying murky image that was clearly male. However, the promotion has now confirmed the signing of England’s James Haskell, a former Rugby star who of late has been training with London Shootfighters.

Haskell has also worked covering MMA for BT Sport, which is the UFC’s broadcast partner in the U.K. and Ireland.

A member of the Maidenhead Rugby Club, Wasps RFC, Stade Francais, and Northhampton Saints over the years, Haskell also made 77 appearances for England’s national team between 2007 and 2019. The 34-year old Flanker announced his retirement from Rugby this past may, however. He has never competed at MMA, but will be joining Bellator’s relatively thin heavyweight division.

Standing 6″4 at 260lbs, Haskell should fit right in. The promotion has signed crossover stars before, including former WWE wrestler Jake Hager (Jack Swagger), and Geordie Shore celebrity Aaron Chalmers. While no premiere date has been announced for Haskell, sometime in 2020 seems likely.

The signing comes as Bellator continues to establish a solid foothold in Europe, especially in the U.K. and Ireland. The promotion launched its European Series earlier this year, and has inked broadcast deals with Sky Sports and Channel 5.