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Jake Hager says he didn’t land illegal groin shot at Bellator 231, claims opponent wanted out

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It wasn’t a groin shot, at least according to Jake Hager.

The wrestling superstar turned pro MMA fighter denies having landed the illegal knee that turned his heavyweight bout with Anthony Garrett into a no-contest at Friday’s Bellator 231 in Uncasville, Conn. Hager believes the shot was clean, contrary to referee Dan Miragliotta’s call.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the finish tonight, I didn’t think I kneed him at all,” Hager told reporters in his post-fight scrum. “We all have cups out there, I didn’t feel a cup. You can watch it back, I saw his leg lift up from the knee. But I can’t control that it's something I have to move on from, like I said I'm here to fight and I just don’t think he was tonight.”

Hager believes Garrett used the referee’s call of the illegal shot to pull out of the fight. He has no interest rematching someone he claims didn’t want to fight.

“Is it something I’d be interested in running back? I don’t know, he didn’t seem like he wanted to fight tonight, so what’s going to change next time? Is he really going to want to fight fight next time? I mean, I’m a competitor, I’m a fighter, and I’m doing so much right now trying to get myself better, and for him to do something like that, whatever.”

Hager feels like the fight wouldn’t have lasted much longer, as he saw the end near for Garrett.

“I felt like it was going to come to an end soon,” Hager said. “He was a strong guy, I had him up against the cage, he was clinching on to me trying to avoid the wrestling – which is smart – but I feel like I was leaps and bounds ahead of him. “It would’ve been only a matter of time before something landed and dropped him.

“I mean look, my whole strategy tonight was to put myself in an uncomfortable position and gain that valuable cage experience on my feet and I got that. I got good time on my feet, unfortunately he just didn't want to fight anymore.”

The 37-year-old Hager doesn’t have a date for his return to the Bellator cage, but he doesn’t expect to be out for long.

“Not right now, but sooner or latter I’m going to get in there,” Hager said. “I feel like after these three fights in one year I’ve proven that I belong here as a heavyweight and I’m not playing games and I’m just going to keep getting better, that’s all I can focus on.”