Swagger on MMA: “I have been thinking about doing it for a long time”
Credit: RING RUST RADIO
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Ring Rust Radio: Last week, you signed a multi-fight, multi-year contract with Bellator MMA. You will fight in the heavyweight division and are expected to make your debut in 2018. What went into your decision to sign with Bellator and why did you feel MMA was the right career path right now?
Jack Swagger: I really like Bellator and them as a company and how they are run. It’s a popular place for fighters to go to. It seems there has been a mass exodus from UFC-controlled contracts and I really like that especially coming from the WWE to have a little more freedom and feel a little more love as a talent. As far as why MMA, I have been a pro-wrestler for 10 years now but an amateur wrestler for 25 years. It’s really who I am and something that has been a part of me. I have been thinking about doing it for a long time and wanting to do it and combat sports is so popular right now. It’s really cool to see independent wrestling and professional wrestling growing and being so cool and MMA is exploding with all this competition. There are so many good rosters and with what these guys are doing in the cage is really phenomenal and cool to watch. It’s an honor to train for and be a part of.
Ring Rust Radio: As an All-American at the University of Oklahoma, you dominated collegiate wrestling. How will you use that experience to make the successful transformation to MMA?
Jack Swagger: Most professional fighters have an amateur career, so I am going to have to rely heavily on my amateur wrestling career. I anticipate it’s going to be a similar mindset on how to train and prepare and how to go into a fight like it is going to be a division one collegiate wrestling match. I’m going to rely a lot on that especially with the technique. Just the experience I got working at colleges like the University of Oklahoma both in their football and wrestling programs. Some of the best in the country in strength and conditioning, preparing, peaking at the right times and taking care for your body. I think I really got my degree in that from there.
Ring Rust Radio: Signing with Bellator was a move that made a lot of waves and likely added even more value to your brand both as a mixed martial artist and a wrestler. With that said, do you plan on dedicating your time solely to MMA, or do you have interest in doing both MMA and wrestling, much like Bobby Lashley does currently?
Jack Swagger: Absolutely. I think pro-wrestling and MMA are so hot right now and I want to use one hand to help the other. At first, I will still do pro-wrestling, I have a certain amount of days that I can wrestle that is in the contract with Bellator. That is how I am paying the bills right now and it’s nice. I think what I am trying to do with this is it’s a game changer for my brand where I can cross over with something I am good at and have another career. That other career and other spotlight and what you can accomplish over there will only help you as a pro-wrestler to become more popular. There is still a lot going in to getting over, but I think this is a unique opportunity and it came around and felt like a once in a lifetime and I really had to jump at it. I am glad I did.
Ring Rust Radio: Bellator’s heavyweight division is stacked with big names, including Bobby Lashley, Roy Nelson and Fedor Emelianenko. Who are you most excited to square off against and what are your ultimate goals with the company?
Jack Swagger: Man, they really do have some great names. Big Country has been on the scene really making a name for himself. I just like that he has this different body type, but he can get in there and go and never gets tired. It’s really cool to see Feodor being a part of this. He is like a household name when it comes to MMA. I’ve been really impressed with Matt Mitrione. He’s a big guy but he moves very well and has great footwork. King Mo is another guy who wrestled at Oklahoma then went on to be an All-American for Oklahoma State but was a couple years ahead of me or around the same time. It’s really exciting to be a part of it and I think Bellator is doing a great job of marketing it and making it seem like a big fight feel. You add Chael Sonnen to anything and it’s going to kind of explode. It’s really cool and I am very excited to see what Chael Sonnen and guys like Ryan Bader can do in the Grand Prix. They are giving up a lot of weight, but they are in it and I’m sure they’re ready and they know what the game plan is. I think before I have any fight it’s hard to say what my dream fight would be or which one of those guys I would like to face first. I know I’m ready to fight so I am more looking forward to a date. Give me a date and the line starts here.
Ring Rust Radio: For as long as WWE has existed it’s always been infatuated with the American hero vs. foreign heel gimmick. You vs. Rusev is a prime example, as well as Jinder Mahal’s recent title run. With that in mind, and the fact that you had gotten the “We the People” chant so over, why do you feel WWE didn’t do more to capitalize on that near the end of your run?
Jack Swagger: I’m very honored to be a part of that storyline. It’s definitely one of my best parts of my career. To be able to change from being essentially a bad guy into a really hot babyface overnight is very hard to do. So that proves how special that group was, and that storyline was. Zeb, Lana, Rusev, a special dynamic came together there and it’s hard to replicate. Why they didn’t go further with that I don’t know. I think a little bit was Rusev just debuted and they had plans for him at WrestleMania. They wanted to make that the focus. I don’t know why we parted ways like we did. We could have at least done another pay-per-view and then kept on going. Maybe they just didn’t believe in me as a babyface or think it was that over. I think that’s more of a question for them I guess.
Ring Rust Radio: When you first aligned yourself with Zeb Colter in WWE and established the “We the People” gimmick, it was the talk of the wrestling world and was getting mainstream media attention. Given how the United States and the world have continued to evolve in the few years since then, do you feel like it could have been even bigger had it come into existence more recently, possibly even coinciding with Donald Trump’s election as president?
Jack Swagger: Yeah actually it’s funny because I pitched an angle to Vince. Zeb was away, and I said let’s bring him back and let’s do a Donald Trump angle where we mimic everything he does, says and whatever he tweets. It’s essentially a storyline that would write itself and he wanted to stay away from it. I went to him and said, “Hey Vince, how would like to put Donald Trump in the White House?” So, maybe that wasn’t the best pitch. I thought it was really something special. I wrote it up and I showed Zeb and he added his little stuff to it and it could’ve really been explosive right now. There’s so much anger towards his tweets, towards him, his behavior, and that would’ve been like electric heat. I can’t even imagine it. It would’ve been good and just for the record, I pitched that in 2015. So as soon as he announced he was running I was like oh gosh, please let me get on this. That’s a great idea like, I got all the moves, I got all the good moves, that’s sad. I’m going to pause and start tweeting and make the whole audience have to read my tweets in order to see what I’m saying while I’m wrestling. You guys are going to have to give up royalties.