A decorated athlete, Jake Hager, the man formerly known as Jack Swagger, was a prominent figure on WWE programming. Now fighting under the Bellator banner, Swagger brings elements of his wrestling persona to the MMA cage.
The All-American American is a former United States and ECW World Champion. One of his most memorable moments came when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract against Chris Jericho to win the World Championship in 2010. Speaking on Booker T’s Hall of Fame podcast, Swagger recounts what it was like to reach the pinnacle of his career with a title win.
“It’ll go down as one of the greatest moments of my whole life,” Swagger stated. “Anyone that holds a championship you are on a list of a very few people that have had that special honor, and it is really incredible to say that no matter what you say about my wrestling career I was a World Heavyweight Champion and you can’t take that away from me.”
Swagger’s reign lasted over 79 days before losing it to Rey Mysterio in a fatal four-way match at the Fatal 4-Way PPV. After becoming a world champion, Swagger was mainly used in tag team matches with Cesaro before ending his run with his Real American persona with Zeb Colter. After requesting his release in 2017, Swagger joined the independent scene while also getting signed to Lucha Underground. Since then he has been training for a true MMA run.
Learning a lot from his time in pro wrestling, Swagger reflected on what was missing from his pro wrestling career. Starting young, early life lessons may have helped out Swagger early on in his career.
“I think what was missing from me the most was me being able to stand up for myself backstage,” Swagger continued. “Whether it was storylines, or whether it was political B.S that we all had to endure, I was a pushover a lot of the times and I think that it is good fuel for me now that I have a chip on my shoulder in MMA. I am pissed off about certain things. You can’t be madder than you can at yourself and I am really holding myself accountable now and pushing myself and learning from the experience and not just blaming others.
“I was young; I signed with the WWE when I was 24. I was up on the main roster when I was 26 and 10 years later that is a lot of learning and a lot of growth. It took me a while to realize my worth but when I did we’ve been taking steps in the right direction ever since, but you know what, what is cool about the WWE thing is that it is never off the table. Pro wrestling has become so popular now, it is so awesome. There’s no more hiding in the closet and watching it. Or reading the magazines. It is cool to be a pro wrestler and that makes it so much better for us as pro wrestlers, who go out there and put our bodies on the line and give the fans the entertainment that they deserve.”
Swagger joined Bellator in 2017, baking his debut in 2018. He is 2-0 with the promotion, beating both J.W. Kiser and T.J. Jones via arm-triangle choke. As the competition grows so does his desire to get to the top. Getting a chance to be his authentic self, Swagger believes there is a certain aspect of wrestling that can relate to his latest venture.
“You can be the toughest guy in the world but even the biggest dog in the fight can be beaten and told that it is not a winner long enough and then he’s going to start to believe it,” Swagger went on to say. “That mental game Booker T, that is the fight game and it’s incredible for me to see both perspectives now and looking back to see why I left WWE and where I am at here in MMA. It’s really nice, but I needed that 12 years in WWE, on the road, 200+ days traveling away from my family setting this up to get to this moment. It’s like one hand needs the other.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit the Hall of Fame podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.