The artist formerly known as Jack Swagger is going to try out a professional MMA career now that he’s no longer signed to WWE, the pro wrestling organization. 35-year-old Jake Hager signed with Bellator a couple of weeks ago, and intends to continue doing pro wrestling while he tries his hand in the cage.
“For the longest time there, I felt like I was literally the toughest guy in the locker room. Yet, I would go out there and have two-minute matches with guys that couldn't hold my jock. It even got to the point where I pitched to them, I was like, ‘Look, I got something to prove. You guys are a great platform. Let me prove it. Pick the fighter — I’ll fight anybody. Put them on your show and I’ll fight them.’ They didn’t really want to go down that route.”
“Let’s do something different, along those lines. I don’t know if they just didn’t believe in my abilities, but now we’re here to show it. It’s crazy. Stuff like that always happens and it just got pushed to the side and I was like, Alright, well I’m still here. I'm gonna do do it. It’s a great opportunity that I’m gonna take advantage of.”
This isn’t really surprising. The WWE wants to distance itself from shoot fighting as much as possible to differentiate their product, and their one attempt at promoting legitimate fights - the Brawl For All concept in 1998 - was a gigantic failure that left them with no marketable stars and a whole lot of medical bills.
Hager also stated that his manager contacted the UFC about him coming in, but Bellator was the better fit:
“We reached out to the UFC, but in our heads the whole time Bellator was the end run,” Hager said. “That’s where we wanted to go. Like I said, they just seem like a company that values its talents and its assets. I think it’s on the rise. You see what Bellator is doing, with the roster that they bring in. Not only at heavyweight, at all weights. It’s really becoming great and tough all the way through. It’s very exciting to be a part of that.”