Jake Hager isn’t trading in his wrestling trunks for a pair of mixed martial arts gloves.
In fact, the man known as Jack Swagger among professional wrestling fans, plans to balance life both inside the cage with life inside the square circle.
But for now, Hager is solely focused on his upcoming professional MMA debut at Bellator 214 later this month.
A collegiate wrestling standout out of the University of Oklahoma, Hager joins the likes of Brock Lesnar as former NCAAA Division I wrestling All-Americans turned WWE Superstars to make the jump into the world of MMA.
But, for Hager, that’s where the comparison ends.
“We both have big teeth and no necks,” joked Hager when asked about any similarities between himself and Lesnar during the Bellator 214 media call. “What Brock did was incredible. He raised the bar to new heights, to something a lot of people didn’t think would ever happen. To have entertainers cross over into this highly physical industry. It’s the toughest sport int he world, bar none. Before I started training for MMA, I was like ‘I’ve wrestled all of my life, I know how to train hard.’ No. MMA training is way hard than wrestling and it has proven that over the last year and a half.
“But if I could make some comparison to me and Brock, I’d say very similar wrestling, though he might have the edge on that, but I think my hands are better.”
Outside of Lesnar, Hager also joins Phil Brooks, also known as CM Punk, among his fellow WWE alum to don the four-ounce gloves.
Brooks (0-2) previously made waves in the fight world when he jumped ship from the WWE to the UFC in 2016. While he hasn’t had the same success as Lesnar, a former UFC champion, inside the Octagon, Brooks’s name has dominated the headlines during the leadup to both of his fights.
But according to Hager, his decision to pursue MMA was made long before Brooks’ foray into combat sports
“I first got the bug [to compete] about the same time [Bellator light heavyweight champion] Ryan [Bader] did,” said Hager. “We were both in college at the same time. So our junior and senior years, my teammates at Oklahoma started delving into it. Then, back in 2013, an ex-teammate of mine, Matt Grice, was fighting for the UFC in Tampa, where I live, and we went to the fight. From then on, I had the bug. So, it wasn’t a matter of if it was a matter of when I crossed into the MMA world.”
When Hager finally does make the walk to the cage, he will stand opposite J.W. Kiser (1-1). A fellow Bellator newcomer, Kiser is looking to pick up his second straight win after earning a first-round TKO over Michael Edwards in December.
For Hager, the opponent doesn’t matter. He not only plans on sticking around in Bellator but envisions himself competing among the elite of the heavyweight division while earning as much money as possible.
“I would love to be in the finals of a Heavyweight Grand Prix,” said Hager. “I left a giant company, making hundreds of thousands of dollars for a chance to cross over into another industry. So, it’s a big investment on myself and a huge risk as far as career goes. This is very serious for me. This is life. Nobody loves cash more than I do and I want more of it. I don’t need it all, I just need a lot.”