In 2017 Jack Swagger ended his 11-year employment with WWE when he asked for and was granted his release. Swagger left because wanted the ability to do things outside of WWE such as working the indie circuit and competing in MMA.
Swagger was a collegiate wrestler and football player and he says that competitive background is what drove him to mixed martial arts.
"I've been a competitor all my life," Swagger told Wrestling Inc.'s Michael Wiseman at WrestleCade. "I got away from that with WWE – it's a different style of competition. Now to get back of the true form of "the best guy plays, the best guy wins," it's very exciting."
Swagger then talked about how he built up his name in sports entertainment and the popularity of pro wrestling has benefitted him. Now he gets to crossover into MMA with an already-established name that he can then further build upon in the octagon.
Swagger, under his real name of Jake Hager, said that he will make an announcement on his MMA debut in the coming days.
"I've been training hard. I think next week we're going to be making an announcement of when the first fight's going to be, who it's going to be with, where it's going to be at," said Swagger.
When asked if he could give a hint as to when the first MMA fight is going to be, Swagger replied, "Here's the hint: we already know the finish [laughter]."
The path that Swagger took in leaving WWE for the indies certainly isn't a new one in pro wrestling as Drew McIntyre did the same thing in 2014. After McIntyre was released, he then worked various promotions in the United States and his home country of Scotland before returning to WWE.
Swagger discussed how McIntyre provided a blueprint for others to follow on the indie scene.
"I think that Drew was a guy that I really saw out there doing it and being successful and becoming the top wrestler in the world outside of a major promotion. That really showed me what the independents can do and how powerful they can be," said Swagger.
"I was fortunate to [sign with WWE] right out of college so I didn't have that knowledge of the independents… But it's all about opportunity and timing. For me, it was the right time to walk away, the right time to go and be with my family more. And to learn different styles of wrestling and go on a little bit of a journey...
"It was a good separation so I don't have any animosity, but I just want the opportunity to compete whether it's pro wrestling or MMA. I'm a competitor."
The full audio from WInc's exclusive interview with Jack Swagger is included in our latest WINCLY podcast, which drops every Thursday: