One of the perks of being signed to AEW instead of WWE is that a talent can continue to pursue endeavors outside of pro wrestling. For Jake Hager, that endeavor is MMA as he’s signed with Bellator and has won two of his three pro fights.
Hager is gearing up for his next fight this Saturday at Bellator 250 against Brandon Calton. Balancing being a pro wrestler and a mixed martial artist is no easy task as each role carries a different set of responsibilities. Hager was asked about adjusting his training for each sport by Giancarlo Aulino, BarnBurner during Bellator 250’s Virtual Media Day.
“We film twice a week with AEW every other week, so I have ten days off in between. That is usually the schedule until bigger things come on, which there’s nothing bigger than AEW and Bellator right now [laughs]. So, I really consider the filming days with AEW as my rest days and then once I’m home, as soon as I’m home on a Thursday or a Friday, I already have practices scheduled and I’ll go Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday. And then I’ll fly out again Wednesday to go film,” said Hager.
“It’s worked pretty well. AEW has definitely understood, you know, during those rest days that I’m really pushing it and really working hard. And I think they have done a great job to help complement their schedule with mine and allow me to get the time to work out even on those rest days a little bit and like a run or some kind of conditioning and it really has and will show in this fight.”
Hager spent 10 years in WWE as Jack Swagger before hitting the indies for a couple of years prior to joining AEW. If he was still with WWE, fighting in mixed martial arts would be out of the discussion not only because of the promotion limiting talent’s outside opportunities but also because of WWE’s crazy schedule. Hager talked about the latter and compared WWE’s schedule to AEW’s.
“Well, the number one difference is the schedule. AEW films weekly television shows, so it’s about 60-70 dates a year with the pay-per-views, maybe a little bit less… maybe a little bit more. At WWE, we were running over 200 dates a year, so at times I’m only home 36 hours,” revealed Hager. “It really is like a completely different schedule where even if I am able to train on those five days that I’m on the road, it’s not the same… It’s not consistent, I don’t have a coach and some kind of congruent plan going on.”
Hager was also asked how the conversation about fighting in MMA would have went with Vince McMahon as compared to AEW President Tony Khan. He elected to only focus on how that conversation went with Khan while also implying that WWE talents aren’t as happy as those in AEW.
“The conversation with Tony, like any conversation, is very easy. He’s a great guy. I think his leadership really trickles down. He wants good people to work at AEW, so talking to him is like sitting here talking with you guys [the media] right now, it’s very casual. He’s a very big sports guy. I think that’s why you see so many wrestlers happy to be at AEW because he treats us like athletes and it really shows in our work that we’re more than happy to show him how much we appreciate that,” said Hager.