Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jake Hager, better known as Jack Swagger, signed with Bellator MMA this past November in hopes of pursuing a career as a professional Mixed Martial Artist. Hager recently spoke to Andy Malnoske of Wrestling Inc. about his transition from professional wrestling to MMA.
Hager is currently training and is targeting a promotional debut towards the end of the year. He said he's in amazing shape at 36 years old and he feels great. Hager said he wanted to get into MMA because he wants to feel more stable with the company he works for.
"Training is coming along very well. It's amazing, and has been incredibly tough with the transitions that I have gone through from where I was in WWE. It has actually taken off a lot of the aches and pains. My body feels amazing; I am stronger and more flexible than ever. I am in the best shape of my life. That is pretty impressive at 36 years old, so it is going good. I am very excited about it," Hager said. "I am looking for my first fight in December of 2018 sometime around then. I am biting at the bit right now because I am so thirsty for it. As far as the reasoning behind the transition is because Pro Wrestling is a special business that you have to love to do, but for me I got to a certain point and I didn't have any leverage with the company so I wanted to transition into another company and feel that it is something I can be successful at and help my wrestling career."
Hager believes MMA and professional wrestling share some similarities, but the biggest difference has been the training schedule. MMA takes a lot of time and dedication and he's had to adjust to balancing that with his personal life as a husband and father.
"So many things. It's been a whole--literally kind of a similar industry, from professional fighting to professional sports entertainment. It's also very different. Jumping into something new is always challenging with the schedule and the routine and when you can train, and fit that into your life that you already have right now. The hardest part for me was that and I also have good people around me," he said "My wife is amazing and does so many sacrifices because we have two kids where I can train and I can focus on this and she can take care of that responsibility. I am not a deadbeat, but I have to train. It's been very interesting. Going through life is always scary doing something new, at the same time it is very exciting. The worst part has been the unknown, but at the same time it is the most exciting to have things set up for 2018 and 2019 and years to come."
Hager also said he had a great time training with fellow wrestler-turned-MMA fighter Dave Batista. He said he learned a lot from Batista and is thankful to him for setting him up with a great coach.
"Dave has been great. I took a lot of notes from his fight camp. I am using a lot of the same people. What a great guy that is. You really see someone like that who becomes successful going into a different industry. He is a great guy and wants to see others do well," Hager said. "He set me up with [MMA Trainer] Josh Rafferty out of Cincinnati, who is a great guy and a great coach, and a mad scientist. Very thankful. Dave Batista, thank you. Sorry about giving you that shiner."
You can watch the full interview in the video above.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.