Bellator, the major MMA promotion has signed former WWE star and champion Jack Swagger (real name Jake Hager). He will compete in Bellator’s heavyweight division and will make his debut in 2018.
Hager broke the news Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani.
As a wrestler, Hager is best known for his time in WWE, where he became a two-time world champion, holding WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship and the ECW Championship once each, and a one-time WWE United States Champion.
Hager attended the University of Oklahoma as a two-sport athlete, participating in both football and wrestling. He switched to wrestling full-time in his sophomore year, and in 2006, set the record for most pins in a season with 30 as an All-American. Following a try-out, Hager signed a WWE contract in mid 2006.
Hager started wrestling at the age of five. He wrestled in high school with Danny Hodge’s grandson and remains good friends with Hodge as he grew up living two blocks away from him in Perry, Oklahoma.
Hager was a two-sport athlete in high school, competing in wrestling and American football. He was also class president as a sophomore and junior. Hager was the No. 5-ranked 215-pounder by Wrestling USA in 1999. He won the 215-pound division of the state wrestling championship as a junior after being a runner-up as a sophomore. Hager then joined the Junior National USA wrestling team as a heavyweight during the summer of 2000. His junior year, while playing football, he recorded 45 tackles and 6 sacks in 3 games in before breaking his ankle. He recorded 75 tackles and 3 fumble recoveries as a senior, helping Perry post a 10–3 mark.
The University of Oklahoma recruited Hager as a two-sport athlete in football and wrestling. He was the second-string defensive tackle behind eventual National Football League players Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek. He stopped playing football and concentrated fully on wrestling his sophomore year. During his junior year, he was introduced to Jim Ross, who was World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)’s Head of Talent Relations at the time, through former OU defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, Hager’s close friend and college roommate. Ross encouraged Hager to contact him after graduating to see about a career in professional wrestling. At the 2005 NCAA Division I championships, he lost to University of Pennsylvania’s Matt Feast in the second round, and did not place. As a senior in 2006, Hager had a seventh-place finish in the NCAA championships and also defeated the future national champion, Dustin Fox from Northwestern University. Hager was named an All-American at season’s end while setting the Oklahoma record for most pins in a single season with 30.
In 2006, Hager graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in finance. Following his graduation, he was going to work with a firm in Dallas, Texas, but signed with WWE after they offered a contract the day he was scheduled to start.