Jake Hager, better known as former WWE world heavyweight champion Jack Swagger, was recently on the Pat Buck WrestlePro Show and discussed his transition from professional wrestling to Mixed Martial Arts.
Hager signed with Bellator MMA last month after leaving WWE in March. Similar to superstars like Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley, Hager believes he will be able to continue performing in pro-wrestling while competing in MMA. Now that he has experience working the independent circuit, he discussed the challenges of starting over in the pro-wrestling business.
"It's definitely--I feel a little bit like I am starting over. I have a name so people recognize me, but as far as believing in a character that I am doing, it's all new, but at the same time, every show is different," Hager said. "I think in this day and age everyone has to prove themselves, and competition makes everyone better. I have to say that I have a good response on the indies, but there is a lot to grow and gain from. It is a big journey for me because I want to evolve more from a WWE wrestler to a true professional wrestler that can master more than one style and market. I find that the reaction is very honest."
Hager will compete as a heavyweight with Bellator and as an 0-0 fighter, it's likely his first opponent would also be someone who lacks experience for his debut in 2018. He said he's not looking very far ahead, but he's excited for the upcoming year and all the possibilities it holds. He said Bellator is supportive of his desire to compete both in wrestling and MMA.
"I am trying to do it in short term goals. Short term I want to fight twice in 2018 for Bellator," he said "Short term I wrestle in between that and continue to grow as a professional wrestler. It has been so cool with Bellator. They understand what I am trying to do and they are 100 percent on board. I felt a lot of love, and it feels nice to work for a company that values your assets a little bit more, and realize that if you grow they grow."
Hager said he feels like this is a new beginning for his professional career and he's embracing the challenge of making a name for himself in MMA. He said he's focusing on getting his body in perfect shape and he's working with a nutritionist who worked with Batista in the past and was once affiliated with the UFC.
"Goal #1 is to put on size. Tall guys like me the weight always falls off, so making weight has never been an issue. I want to keep on sizing and focusing on that, as well as eating right and sleeping right. At my age, I had to train very creatively to push myself without pushing my body where I am out for a couple of weeks, which is very challenging, but in 2017 where Sports Medicine is at it can easily be done," he said. "I have a great guy who handles a lot of that stuff, and is great at what he does; his name is Josh Rafferty, ex-UFC guy, who is a mad scientist when it comes to strength and conditioning. He really understands how amateur wrestlers transition into MMA and how to position guys. He was the main guy in Dave Batista's camp. He was a UFC fighter before UFC, and he has so much knowledge, which is cool that we joined up in this journey together. I feel very confident in the team we have assembled because of him."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit the Pat Buck WrestlePro Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Pat Buck WrestlePro Show
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.