Hager requested and received his WWE release in March of 2017. He would make his MMA debut nearly two years later, submitting J.W. Kiser in the first round at Bellator 214 this past January.
"So far it's been a 2-3 year journey for me as far as training and actually working towards this," Hager said. "It's been awesome, it's been really refreshing."
Hager said that one of the major benefits of being an MMA fighter is not having to deal with the grueling WWE travel schedule.
"After being on the road so much and traveling and having your body beat down in certain ways and cramming into airlines, it's nice to be at home and be around my family and get to do something that I love," Hager admitted.
Hager is a decorated amateur wrestler and had set the record for most pins in a season as an All-American at the University of Oklahoma in 2006. Punk entered MMA with no athletic credentials on a collegiate level. Punk signed with the UFC in December of 2014 and had his first fight nearly two years later at UFC 203 in September of 2016. Punk was dominated in short order and was submitted at 2:14 of the first round.
"You're taking a little bit of a slower approach, which I appreciate the hell out of," Punk told Hager. "You're training your butt off with a good team."
Punk agreed with Hager that the schedule of a fighter is far easier than that of a WWE wrestler.
"To speak on that, I love being able to train and then go home," Punk said. "If I'm dinged up, well, I'm in my own bed every night. It's not like waking up at 5:30 every morning, you're afraid you're going to miss your flight and there's a connection, and if you miss the connection then you're not going to be able to get home. I can appreciate not wanting to do that anymore.
"Obviously, people fighting and training is hard, but from where we came from, it makes almost anything easy. They say when you wrestle, it makes everything in life easier, and I think that's a great perspective to have.
You can see the exchange between Punk and Hager below. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Sauce & Shram with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.