Jack Swagger, referring to himself as Jake Hager (his full real name is Donald Jacob Hager), announced on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that he has signed with Bellator MMA and will be joining their heavyweight division.

He’s expected to make his MMA debut some time next year.

Swagger requested his release from WWE this spring, saying that WWE “didn’t value me at what I thought I was valued at.” He has been working in various indie promotions since.


Press Release

Bellator put out this press release:

JAKE HAGER, FORMERLY KNOWN AS WWE’S JACK SWAGGER, SIGNS EXCLUSIVE MULTI-YEAR DEAL WITH BELLATOR MMA

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.