Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger (aka Jake Hagger) recently spoke with MMAFighting about his upcoming return to the octagon this Saturday at Bellator 221.
During the interview, the Oklahoma heavyweight was asked about rumors and reports that Lucha Underground has likely been cancelled after four seasons, given the mass exodus of talent since their last recording and the fact that there has been no hint of talk about returning for quite some time.
“It’s sad, because pro wrestling is becoming so popular right now, and that show had such a passionate following. Their fans were unlike any other place that I’ve been to. Just very devoted to Lucha Underground because it was such a different product. I am the current Lucha Underground Heavyweight Champion, but I have not been in contact, or contacted by anyone from there.”
Back in January, Swagger (1-0) made his professional MMA debut with an impressive first round submission over J.W. Kiser (1-2) at Bellator 214, after being accompanied to the ring by WWE Superstar R-Truth. This weekend he will look to put away another relative unknown in 265-pound T.J. Jones (1-1).
“Right now, where I’m at in my career, is I need to gain experience. I know I can do this. I know I belong, but I need that in-cage experience to really jump the levels and start competing for the championships that I want to. Anyone who does this, they do it because they want to be the best, or they have something to prove, or a chip on your shoulder. We’re gonna fight again soon after this and keep it going. It’s a small window — I’m 37, and even though my body is still coming into its prime, and I got a lot of years left, you have to be smart and really capitalize on opportunity.”
Swagger is hopeful that if he can keep his momentum going, a heavyweight title fight could be in his future. If all goes well, and barring any sort of injury, he plans on fighting two more times before the end of the year, and has the current Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader set in his sights for some time in 2020.
Still, the former WWE Superstar is well aware of having a leg up over his competition, at least when it comes to name recognition and being given opportunities he might not otherwise have.
“I had the opportunity in 2006 to go into MMA and start training, like many of my college teammates did at Oklahoma. I chose a different route and went into sports entertainment, and it’s something that I think really makes me a better pro fighter, because I have a social following of over 2.5 million people. I bring a whole different universe with me. Whether you’re a pro wrestler or a fighter, you want leverage. Having a name, and people wanting to see you, gives you that leverage to where you can do this smart, and get paid accordingly to what your value is. If I would have started this in 2006 it would have a been a much different road. I would not be up here if I didn’t have that WWE history.”