The former England international James Haskell was unveiled by Bellator MMA today after announcing that he will be dipping into the world of MMA under their promotional banner.
Signed to fight within the heavyweight division, Haskell took questions from the media ahead of his professional debut at some point in the near future.
Describing the moment he was approached, he explained how the martial arts have been a presence in his life for quite some time.
“When you came to me to talk about it, I had done some work with BAMMA before and I thought oh brilliant, I’m now done with rugby, I’ve obviously got an interest in MMA – maybe you can offer me some more work.
“Then you drop the bombshell that you want me to fight. So once I stopped nervously laughing it kind of peaked my interest. I went back to my wife – she didn’t find it as funny, obviously looked at me like I was kind of mad.
“The first thing I did was pick up the phone to London Shootfighters – I’ve known them since I was 21 – and I said ‘listen guys, you know I’ve trained down there, you know I love this sport, what do you think about me taking it on and giving it a go.
“They’re one of the toughest, hardest, successful MMA gyms in the UK and I knew that I would be in good hands. They knew me, my career, and my limitations.”
Many look at an athlete of his stature and naturally assume that he will make an easy transition to MMA – and while he was quick to refute this, he still pointed towards several similarities that exist between both sports.
“There is, but you’re kidding yourself if you think there’s that clear a cross-over. I think there are a lot of things that rugby can derive from MMA in terms of body control, takedown, general body conditioning to get up, takedown, fight – to work very similarly to work in the tackle area.
“Obviously the single-leg, double-leg – that ability to get your feet in close, those are real tackle-aids.
“Rugby league, there’s a lot of trasference with the jiu-jitsu – ability to control someone onto their back, hold them – arm drags, armlocks.
“But look, it is very different and that’s why I am very eager.”
The 34-year-old naturally came under equal levels of both criticism and support upon making his decision known to the public but either way, he wanted to let us all know that he is very passionate about this move and that he is ready to dedicate his life to this path.
“There has been overwhelming support but I think some people think it’s a bit like that scene out of Rocky III where he’s wearing golden gloves in training and it’s all showbiz and he gets absolutely filled in by Clubber Lang.
“That’s not what I’m about. I’m dedicating my life to this. I want to make sure I’m in the best possible shape no matter what happens at the end of it.”