Last week, you signed a multi-fight, multi-year contract with Bellator MMA. You will fight in the heavyweight division and are expected to make your debut in 2018. What went into your decision to sign with Bellator and why did you feel MMA was the right career path right now?
"I really like Bellator and them as a company and how they are run. It's a popular place for fighters to go to. It seems there has been a mass exodus from UFC-controlled contracts and I really like that especially coming from the WWE to have a little more freedom and feel a little more love as a talent. As far as why MMA, I have been a pro-wrestler for 10 years now but an amateur wrestler for 25 years. It's really who I am and something that has been a part of me. I have been thinking about doing it for a long time and wanting to do it and combat sports is so popular right now. It's really cool to see independent wrestling and professional wrestling growing and being so cool and MMA is exploding with all this competition. There are so many good rosters and with what these guys are doing in the cage is really phenomenal and cool to watch. It's an honor to train for and be a part of."
For as long as WWE has existed it's always been infatuated with the American hero vs. foreign heel gimmick. You vs. Rusev is a prime example, as well as Jinder Mahal's recent title run. With that in mind, and the fact that you had gotten the "We the People" chant so over, why do you feel WWE didn't do more to capitalize on that near the end of your run?
"I'm very honored to be a part of that storyline. It's definitely one of my best parts of my career. To be able to change from being essentially a bad guy into a really hot babyface overnight is very hard to do. So that proves how special that group was, and that storyline was. Zeb, Lana, Rusev, a special dynamic came together there and it's hard to replicate. Why they didn't go further with that I don't know. I think a little bit was Rusev just debuted and they had plans for him at WrestleMania. They wanted to make that the focus. I don't know why we parted ways like we did. We could have at least done another pay-per-view and then kept on going. Maybe they just didn't believe in me as a babyface or think it was that over. I think that's more of a question for them I guess."
When you first aligned yourself with Zeb Colter in WWE and established the "We the People" gimmick, it was the talk of the wrestling world and was getting mainstream media attention. Given how the United States and the world have continued to evolve in the few years since then, do you feel like it could have been even bigger had it come into existence more recently, possibly even coinciding with Donald Trump's election as president?
"Yeah actually it's funny because I pitched an angle to Vince. Zeb was away, and I said let's bring him back and let's do a Donald Trump angle where we mimic everything he does, says and whatever he tweets. It's essentially a storyline that would write itself and he wanted to stay away from it. I went to him and said, 'Hey Vince, how would you like to put Donald Trump in the White House?' So, maybe that wasn't the best pitch.
"I thought it was really something special. I wrote it up and I showed Zeb and he added his little stuff to it and it could've really been explosive right now. There's so much anger towards his tweets, towards him, his behavior, and that would've been like electric heat. I can't even imagine it. It would've been good and just for the record, I pitched that in 2015. So as soon as he announced he was running I was like, 'oh gosh, please let me get on this.' That's a great idea like, I got all the moves, I got all the good moves, that's sad. I'm going to pause and start tweeting and make the whole audience have to read my tweets in order to see what I'm saying while I'm wrestling. You guys are going to have to give up royalties."