Over the last decade, there has been a recurring trend of professional wrestlers transitioning into mixed martial arts. The most prominent ones were Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, both of whom had been part of UFC pay-per-view events, with Lesnar even holding the UFC heavyweight title for a few years.
The latest addition to this list is Jake Hager, who went by the name “Jack Swagger” during his WWE stint. As he prepares for his MMA debut at Bellator 214 this weekend, he spoke about what he had learned from both Lesnar and Punk.
“I’m very lucky that it’s 2019 and I don’t have to have video cassettes of all the different promotions to get this,” Hager told MMAFighting.com’s Marc Raimondi during the Bellator 214 media this week. “I can just go on YouTube and see the footage and get the film and help the research and get better.
“The main thing I take away from it is you can’t be afraid to get punched in the face in camp,” he continued. “You see that with Brock, you see that with Punk, they didn’t want to get punched in the face.”
Hager recognized the importance of absorbing shots during training as part of his new chosen career path. At the same time, he is not willing to fully turn his back on his pro-wrestling roots.
“I needed it, I needed to learn how to react to it and see how my body is gonna have the instincts to react to that moment,” he said. “That’s the main thing I took from it, and at the same time, those other guys, they shied away from their pro-wrestling background, I feel like.
“I’m embracing it, this is who I am, and I love it. What’s not to like?”
Hager is scheduled to face J.W. Kiser on Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The card will be headlined by the heavyweight grand prix finale between Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader.