Bellator recently announced the signing of former Rugby star James Haskell and have since held a press conference to officially announce the signing. The Head of Bellator Europe, David Green, hosted the press conference and began with the official announcement that Haskell has joined Bellator’s heavyweight stable.
Getting The Call
Haskell explained the story of how he got the call from Green seeing if competing in Bellator was something we would be interested in.
“I’d done some work with BAMMA before, we’d done some presenting stuff, and when you contacted me I thought “Oh brilliant, I’ve now finished in Rugby, I’ve obviously got an interest in MMA, maybe they’re going to offer me some more work.” Then you dropped the bombshell that you wanted me to fight.”
“Once I’d stopped nervously laughing, it kind of peaked my interest. I thought “I have a real interest and a real passion in this”. I went back to my wife; she didn’t find it as funny”.
Haskell then looked to London Shootfighters for advice, a team he has known since he was 21 and trained with regularly during his Rugby career and they all gave Haskell their support. Haskell also confirmed this is where he will be training in preparation for his debut.
Haskell admitted diving into MMA is a bit of an unknown and admits to being fearful about it.
“I’ve gone out of one sport which has been very attritional, very tough. Going into something that’s very unknown I think personally there’s a large element of fear involved, I think anyone who says they’re not scared of this kind of thing is either lying or coming up with pretence.”
Haskell went on to talk about how MMA will give structure and routine back into his life and seems very keen to get back to have a sport and profession to dedicate his time towards.
“For me, it’s a test; it’s a journey. I’ve missed the structure and discipline; I now know where I’ve got to be. I’ve gone back to having a real professional dedication.”
Haskell also insists this isn’t just a quick one-off fight, he will be dedicating his life to become a professional mixed martial artist and doesn’t want to look like a complete amateur who doesn’t belong in the cage.
“I’m dedicating my life to this; I want to make sure I’m in the best possible shape. Whatever happens at the end of it, I’m going to put as much dedication into this as I put into Rugby and I’m deadly serious about it.”
“I don’t want this to be a case where I get into the cage and it looks like I’ve never taken a punch before and it looks like I’m just here for fun because I’m not about that.”
When Will Haskell compete?
At the moment Haskell admitted there is no current timeline on his first fight, and it will largely depend on his progression and when his coaches feel like he is ready to compete. When asked the question on timescales Haskell said:
“For me it’s when my coaches think I’m ready, Bellator, my management, they make those decisions. I want to make sure I’m in a good place for this. This is not about PR, this is not about anything else, this is about me taking on a new challenge and taking it very seriously; committing to it and being dedicated. Other people outside my pay grade make those decisions.”
It’s unlikely that we will see Haskell in the Bellator cage until sometime in 2020 and Bellator will be matching him up with opponents of a similar record in order to build his experience and resume.