Hager, a former WWE world heavyweight champion and current AEW pro wrestler—as well as a 3-0 (1 NC) fighter in Bellator’s heavyweight division—recently revealed to MMA Fighting that he is actively seeking the fight with the returning Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator’s first event to take place in Moscow on Oct. 23.
The words of Hager caught the attention of Barnett who took to Twitter to give this thoughts on the situation.
The Fedor sweepstakes has taken on a life of its own since Bellator made the announcement earlier this month, with names such as Barnett, Hager, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, and even current PFL fighter Fabricio Werdum throwing their names in the hat.
Barnett, along with a slew of MMA fans, believe the former UFC heavyweight champion and the 43-fight veteran should be at the top of the list. “The Warmaster,” when speaking with MMA Fighting, dove a little deeper when it comes to Hager being mentioned for the potential fight with Emelianenko.
“The only thing that matters about Jake Hager is former WWE, current AEW pro wrestler, not Bellator fighter,” Barnett told What the Heck. “Without the other two, the third one doesn’t exist and no one gives a sh*t. Everything that Jake Hager has to bring to the table comes from something that has nothing to do with fighting and I’m not against the entertainment aspect of professional athletics, especially MMA. MMA, as people well know, I consider it one side of the coin the same as pro wrestling.
“So don’t let my harsh words necessarily take away from the fact that I actually support Jake Hager as a fighter and being a fighter. I think it’s great and people should get in the ring, but there’s a big difference between a guy who has just decided to get in the ring and start fighting for, what would appear to me to be, a cash grab and an attention get, not to be a full bred, dedicated MMA fighter. And trying to vie or leverage himself into a fight that’s never been his, that, when it was first even being discussed, he was still possibly even in a singlet wrestling for Oklahoma, not having any consideration of being a fighter, but how he was gonna be a WWE wrestler. He’s decided to do a phase shift and throw his hat into the world of mixed martial arts for however long that’s gonna last. Okay, great, now stick to your own path and let those that are at the absolute top of the game do what they’re supposed to do.”
Hager began his MMA career with back-to-back first-round arm triangle submission wins over JW Kizer and TJ Jones. “Rock Hard” fought to a no contest in his third promotional appearance after landing accidental knees below the belt to Anthony Garrett at Bellator 231. Hager was certainly tested for the first time in his fighting career against Brandon Calton in October at Bellator 250 and picked up a hard-fought split decision win.
For Barnett, he has no issue with Hager making the transition to MMA. In fact, he welcomes it. But to go after a fight with Emelianenko—a bout Barnett was scheduled to have in 2009 and has wanted ever since—that’s where he has the issue.
On top of that, Barnett is not a fan of how Hager has approached getting the fight and some of the reasons the Oklahoma wrestling standout has given in order to get the fight.
“I’ve seen a bit of [his fights] because I wanted to see if he could actually deliver,” Barnett said. “I see some good things. I also see some things that show, man, is he really far from being a really solid top guy. He’s got some skills in specific areas that can help him get out of trouble in the right matchups, but he ain’t there. And I don’t blame him for not being a top guy with only, technically, four fights in a career. In fact, I wouldn’t have even given two sh*ts or had anything to say of any note about Jake Hager except when a man who is just barely getting his training wheels says that he has a bigger following, more excitement and a brighter future, and that he should be given this fight—which has never been his—and that they’re going to build a company upon what Jake Hager does, and all of us are coming in for a one-and-done and he’s here for the next 10 years. Let’s go.
“How old is he? Like 38, 39? Ten years, he’s gonna be fighting until he’s near 50. I mean, brother, if you can do that, amazing. I wouldn’t tell you not to. But it doesn’t really seem very plausible considering that most MMA fighters’ careers are under seven, let alone five, and by about seven years, the statistics show that the decline in performance is rapid, which is why me being around as long as I have is actually a real rarity, and also Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva, and being able to carry those things along. But that’s not normal, and saying that this guy is gonna be around for the next 10 years, it came off as so utterly arrogant and disrespectful. All right, I guess if we’re cutting promos now, that’s what we’re gonna do, but I’m not gonna let you dog me out like that especially when you’re trying to wedge yourself into something that belongs to me and Fedor.
“My opinion is, unless he’s assured differently, he’s gonna fight until he loses and then he’s gonna quit, because he’s not a real fighter. He hasn’t shown me anything that shows he’s made of any of the stuff that real fighters of legend are gonna be known for. And if that’s where it takes him, if that’s enough for him, I’m not here to say he should be forced to do anything he shouldn’t do, or try to stay involved with something if his passion or dedication, or even his capabilities reach a certain point. That’s fine.
“I could easily see him never fighting again for Bellator, or maybe one more time against another guy that’s 2-5 or something like that, getting a win and then being like, ‘Oh, that’s too hard. I’ll just keep making my money where I know my bread is buttered and call it good,’ and you know what? I could use that as a point of insult, but he’s got a wife, I don’t know if he has kids, but he’s got all kinds of things to think about. That’s totally acceptable, too. But you put all these other details and factors together, then you run your mouth about people like myself, and others, well now I’ve got something to say.”
Since parting ways with the UFC after a submission win over Andrei Arlovski in September 2016, Barnett has yet to compete in an MMA bout. He’s been booked against Ronny Markes on two different occasions but the bouts didn’t happen due to not being medically cleared due to illness for Bellator 235, and failing a “medical requirement” for the re-booking for Bellator 241—which was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Barnett did get permission to compete in a bare knuckle bout in October and earned a TKO win over Marcin Rozalski.
When asked if the veteran fighter respected the gusto of Hager to call for a fight with a fighter many consider to be the greatest heavyweight of all time after just four pro fights, Barnett didn’t hesitate to shut down that idea.
“I don’t respect any of it because it’s false. It’s not real,” Barnett stated. “This is not built from a real place, from a sincere statement. It’s bullsh*t. ‘I’m nobody in the realm of fighting. I’m 3-0 and I’m supposed to lose and if I lose, no big deal. If I win, oh look, I got my hero moment.’ He’s got nothing to lose about this. And he can always go back to AEW and, yeah, you lost to one of the best of all time, maybe the best of all time so no one will hold it over your head too much. And then, it’s a great way to exit and say, ‘I was an MMA fighter. Now check me out. I’m a pro wrestling, MMA fighter guy. This is for real, I fought the best.’ You fought one guy that’s the best. The rest of it was a combined record of 14-10, and then one of those guys [you] bonked in the balls.”
After Barnett initially responded to Hager on Twitter, Hager didn’t wait long to take a shot back, using Barnett’s past failures of drug tests as ammunition.
I’ll put asses in the seats while you put needles in your ass.— Jake Hager (@RealJakeHager) July 8, 2021
Pass a drug test BOY and watch me get this fight https://t.co/9PzLeNSy6S
Barnett, who is also a pro wrestler and runs his own promotion called Bloodsport, didn’t appreciate Hager’s response for a number of reasons—not because of the insult itself, but the pro wrestling model of promo cutting not being adhered to in a traditional, and effective way.
“[He responded] poorly. Poorly! Bottom barrel,” Barnett said. “Weak sauce, like bro, you’re supposed to be a trained WWE promo cutter, which they are trained, and now he’s in AEW—and I don’t know if they’re giving him scripts over there, or if he’s allowed to go off cuff—and it’s just so sad. The art of the promo is dead, and Jake Hager is sticking a knife in it.
“You know what’s hilarious? He’s got the following, but if you see my responses vs. his responses, I’m destroying him with likes and retweets. I have around 1/10th the amount of Twitter followers that he has and I’m getting an order of magnitude greater response than he does. You know why? Because people don’t really give a sh*t. They know he’s not legit at this, they know his claims are not for real, and he immediately went bargain basement, took the cheapest thing he could throw out there, and everyone was like, ‘Phhh, all right. Is that all you got?’
“And I wouldn’t suggest he get in a promo battle with me. He’s not gonna win that, and this isn’t about me building a fight against Hager. I don’t want to fight Hager. Fighting Hager does absolutely nothing for me. Zero. Beating him is no big deal and I’m supposed to. I’m also not trying to make a guy money because he sucks at cutting promos. That’s not my intent. I want to fight the best. I want to fight those that are gonna make a legendary fight, like Fedor Emelianenko, or go to Poland and fight bare-knuckle boxing with elbows and do something of a heroic, over-the-top nature, not fight AEW, I’m gonna fight MMA for a bit, guy.
“And as far as it being for Bloodsport? It’s not that either. If I wanted Jake for Bloodsport, I would’ve just got his number and asked him if it was something he was interested in and try to build the best match for him so that he and his opponent could have the best opportunity possible. Even though I take offense to these sorts of things, I’m not here to ruin this guy’s career, either. I’m here to be petty about professional wrestling either.”