2018 is already on track to be the year of the Heavyweight for Bellator MMA.
It was just days ago when the Scott Coker led promotion announced an 8-man Grand Prix tournament that will feature Fedor Emelianenko, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, current Light Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader, Matt Mitrione, King Mo and Roy Nelson. Earlier today, former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger broke the news that he’d be adding his name to the Bellator Heavyweight roster in 2018.
Swagger, who left WWE this past March, made the announcement on today’s edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. Swagger told Helwani that he is under contract for six fights and has been training for the past eight months to prepare for his debut mixed martial arts bout.
Here’s the press release Bellator sent out shortly after Swagger made the announcement:
LOS ANGELES – Bellator is pleased to announce that it has reached a multi-fight, multi-year deal with Jake Hager, who was formerly known as “Jack Swagger” during his nearly nine-year run with WWE. The deal will see Hager make his MMA debut inside a Bellator cage.
Hager will compete at heavyweight and is expected to debut in 2018.
A native of Perry, Okla., Hager would go on to be a collegiate wrestler at the University of Oklahoma, where he was an All-American and set the school record for most pins at the 285-pound weight class in a single season with 30. Following graduation and a conversation with legendary pro wrestling announcer and fellow Oklahoma Sooner, Jim Ross, Hager made the transition to professional wrestling and signed with WWE.
While in WWE, Hager would go on to claim multiple coveted professional titles during his time with the organization, including the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, ECW Championship and WWE United States Championship.
After ending his run with the WWE earlier this year, Hager turned his sights toward another avenue, fully focusing on his mixed martial arts skillset and testing himself against some of the best athletes in the world.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that’s a part of me, so it makes sense. I’m very happy with the deal. I’ve felt a lot of love from Bellator,” said Hager. “I think there are certain types of guys who need to be punched in the face and taste blood. I’ve always been a fan of MMA, I’ve been wrestling since I was five-years-old. It’s awesome to be with Bellator. They’re really going to put 100 percent towards it!”
“I’m excited to see Jake Hager debut for Bellator in 2018,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “When I heard he was seriously interested in competing in MMA and when you look at what he did at the collegiate level, I was very interested in having him on our roster. I think Jake will expose new fans to Bellator from his previous run with WWE and he will be given every opportunity to prove that he’s the real deal inside the cage.”
Hager is the latest in a long line of high-profile signings Bellator has made recently and joins a heavyweight division that will crown a champion in 2018 through the recently announced eight-man Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
You can check out the full interview below.