Former WWE star Jack Swagger -- a one-time world heavyweight champion with the company -- has signed with Bellator MMA and will fight heavyweight in 2018, Swagger himself (real name Jake Hager) announced on "The MMA Hour" with Ariel Helwani.
Swagger said that the contract was finalized over the weekend, but the sides had been negotiating throughout the summer leading up to the contract.
Swagger was once a college wrestling star before joining the WWE. He set the Oklahoma single-season record for pins with 30 in 2006. He has not, however, fought MMA as an amateur or professional, although there is a tremendous amount of precedence for fighters jumping from wrestling to fighting (successfully) and vice versa.
"I'm glad I was able to come on 'The MMA Hour' and announce this," Swagger said. "I have signed with Bellator, and I will be fighting heavyweight them in 2018."
According to Swagger, whose 10-year stint with WWE ended in March, he made the jump because he wasn't getting the same things out of the WWE that he could fighting.
"It's funny, everyone asks me that -- why did you leave WWE -- and for the longest time, I'm very thankful for my career there. I mean, an average career up there is three years I was able to go 10 years up there and -- you know -- for the longest time I was like why did I leave? And I think it becomes very obvious this is why I left the WWE. I wasn't allowed to really compete up there, even though I felt like I could take anyone in the locker room. And 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 hands, your own hard work, and that's really why I left."
Swagger also said that he and his team reached out to Bellator about signing, and Bellator ultimately made the offer. "We have been working and talking with them through the summer," he explained. "We started negotiations and whatnot and it literally got finalized this weekend where we came to terms, and we're excited and the next step would be to set a date."
Swagger seemed to be excited upon making the announcement, adding, "I'm a little in shock still -- a little surreal but I'm very excited about it. Something I've wanted to do for a long time and let's be honest it's been a part of me so, it makes sense right?"
There is no date set for Swagger to begin fighting, though it will not be until the next calendar year. Swagger's jump will undoubtedly be a big event, and he'll be joining the ranks of Bellator which include Ryan Bader, Julia Budd, Darion Caldwell and Ilima-Lei MacFarlene.
Bellator doesn't have a heavyweight champion, but it's hoping it just added one.