Jake Hager, otherwise known as former WWE Superstar Jack Swagger, has signed with Bellator MMA as a heavyweight. The former All-American wrestler for the Oklahoma Sooners made the announcement on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday afternoon.
"There are just certain types of guys that just need to be punched in the face, want to taste blood," Hager said. "I'm definitely like that. Maybe I got away from that for too long."
While there is no timetable for his debut, he hopes to have his first fight in either April or May. The contract is for six fights.
Hager, who wrestled and played football for the Sooners, was among the nation's best collegiate performers in 2006. He finished seventh overall in the NCAA wrestling championships and set Oklahoma's record for most pins in a season (30).
He made his WWE developmental debut right out of college for Deep South Wrestling, but once on the main roster in 2008, he excelled and captured many of the company's titles, including the WWE championship, United States Championship and ECW Championship. He also won the Money in the Bank contract in 2010 and became world heavyweight champion when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Chris Jericho in March 2010.
Swagger's catchphrase "We the People!" raised his profile, but earlier this year, he asked for his release from the company.
"I wasn't allowed to really compete up there even though I felt I could take anyone in the locker room," Hager said. "Now it's such a popular time to be a pro wrestler, to be in combat sports, to be an MMA fighter where you can really take your opportunity and put it in your own hands. That's really why I left."
Hager said he has been training at the Ybor City Jiu-Jitsu Club in Tampa, Florida, for the past eight months. He is the third WWE Superstar to leave the organization for MMA in recent years, joining Brock Lesnar and CM Punk.
Lesnar made his debut in 2006 and eventually became the UFC's heavyweight champion. Punk, meanwhile, fought Mickey Gall in 2016 and lost by first-round rear-naked choke. He has yet to fight again.
"I felt a lot of love from Bellator," Hager said. "I feel like they are very excited to have me be a part of their roster, not just be a freak show coming in to take some money. I'm here to compete and be a champion."