While not uncommon, it can be hard for MMA fighters to compete in pro wrestling after a long career in another sport, and vice versa. Doing both at the same time? That is extremely rare. Someone who is breaking the norm is AEW and Bellator MMA's Jake Hager.
Hager (2-0) regularly appears on AEW on TNT on Wednesday's, debuting on the premiere episode. This week, however, he is preparing for a new challenge. The 37-year-old will be competing in his third professional MMA match this Friday for Bellator. His third fight in 2019, Hager is set to face Anthony Garrett in a heavyweight bout. With two wins via submission, the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion is looking to add another win under his belt on the main card of Bellator 231.
Was it easy for Hager to work out a deal between Bellator President Scott Coker and AEW's Tony Khan in order to make this work? He spoke to Wrestling Inc.'s Dan Yanofsky about how the process was and how cross-promotion is a vital key for any companies success.
"Honestly, it was such a breath of fresh air. Both of those guys were so willing to work with me," Hager stated. "AEW loves what I'm doing with Bellator and Bellator loves what I'm doing with AEW. I don't think 10 years ago you would see that happen where an MMA fighter would go work on a pro wrestling TV show right in the middle of camp. For Scott and Tony to be willing to work with each other and understand that this is something really cool and cross-promote, among other things, the sky's the limit. I feel like that's the mindset with it. Entertainment is a big part of MMA and it is unique."
In two fights for Bellator Hager has competed on the main card. That has drawn the ire of several heavyweights within the company who have been there longer. One fighter, Tyrell Fortune, has been very vocal about Hager's status with the company. Fortune (7-0) has called out Hager, but is confident the All-American doesn't want to fight him.
This past weekend at #Bellator225 I asked Tyrell Fortune his thoughts on facing Jake Hager next (aka Jack Swagger). Fortune stated that Hager is scared to fight him and that he should go back to #WWE. #BellatorMMA #MMA pic.twitter.com/p15xbR2jyV— Daniel Yanofsky (@DanYanofsky) August 27, 2019
Hager doesn't see Fortune, or any heavyweight who has an issue with him, as a threat. He actually has a very simple answer as to why he is getting opportunities over others.
"I don't have anything to say to him. The reason why I'm up here on the main card and TV is because I've been on television for the last twelve years and he hasn't," Hager continued. "I have may more of a social following and that's a blessing and that's why I'm here. That's why I can pass people up who aren't as deserving of it, maybe.
"It is one of those things where you come to expect it. It is going to cause people to be mad and call me out, and it is one of those things where you have to roll with the punches. The only thing that bothered me about what he said is that he never heard about me and wrestling, and that's funny, because I've won two state championships before he was ten years old. That may be calling me old and him young but at the same time it's like, read a book if you haven't heard about me."
Bellator 231 takes place this Friday inside the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main event will be a rematch between Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. Tickets for the event are still available and you can also watch on The Paramount Network and DAZN. Hager's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of today's episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post, or via the video player at the top.