James Haskell is a former Rugby union flanker who spent the bulk of his career at Wasps and finally ended his career with the Northampton Saints. Haskell also had a good international career with England having 77 appearances, playing in two World Cups and winning three Six Nations.
Struggling with injuries later in his Rugby career, Haskell decided to call it a day when the season ended in June but quickly decided what his next career will be.
Haskell will be making his MMA debut with Bellator and will likely be competing in the first half of 2020, taking the rest of 2019 to get prepared for the drastic change in sport. It’s likely that we will see Bellator look to build Haskell up and place him in with other inexperienced fighters to start with. Bellator are also holding a press conference next Wednesday in London to full announce the signing.
Haskell has long been interested in MMA for over 10 years and has been training regularly as he claimed it gave him an advantage in Rugby. Haskell told Joe.ie seven years ago that he trained at the London Shootfighters gym whenever he was in London.
“Yeah I do use MMA, when I’m in London, I train at London Shootfighters with UFC fighter John Hathaway and the other guys down there. It’s great for my general fitness and helps my performance on the rugby pitch. I love sport and this is one of the best activities out there.”
Haskell also went into more detail about why he believed MMA training related to Rugby and helped to improve his game, recognising that the discipline is very high in a similar way to Rugby.
“Your footwork and placement is vital in both sports. It’s about how you move and positioning yourself correctly. If your feet are in the wrong place in rugby, a guy will run straight through you, in MMA, a guy will take you down. It’s about side control and making your opponent do what you want him to do.
Some of the conditioning is also similar to what I do for rugby; it’s about developing a lactic tolerance and training through the pain, whilst ensuring you keep thinking clearly. The discipline is also the same, there is no disrespect allowed in rugby or the UFC at all.”