Leading mixed martial arts promotion Bellator MMA has announced the signing of former England international rugby star James Haskell to its elite roster of athletes.
Haskell will compete in the Bellator heavyweight division and is expected to make his professional MMA debut for the global promotion in 2020.
Haskell announced the end of his stellar 17-year professional rugby career, which saw him achieve major honours for both club and country, in May this year, at the age of 34.
Haskell joined Wasps in 2002 and played a huge role in their English Premiership and European Heineken Cup-winning seasons in 2007 and 2008. His club career also saw him represent Stade Francais in France, Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, Highlanders in New Zealand as well as Northampton Saints.
Haskell made his England debut in 2007 and went on to win 77 caps, earning inclusion in England’s 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup squads. He played an integral part in England’s return to form under coach Eddie Jones in 2016, which saw the side win their first Six Nations Grand Slam for 13 years, before successfully defending their title the following year.
The back row forward also earned inclusion on the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, flying out to replace the injured Billy Vunipola.
Alongside his many rugby accolades, Haskell has shown a keen interest in the sport of MMA for a number of years, working as an MMA TV pundit and training alongside British MMA star Michael “Venom” Page at London Shootfighters gym.
Known as one of sports great characters, Haskell is sure to bring his livewire, quick-witted and at times no-nonsense personality to the sport of MMA – along with genuine, knockout power.
Standing at 6ft 4in and weighing in during his rugby career at 260lbs, Haskell will compete in Bellator’s heavyweight division which features the likes of current champion Ryan Bader, challenger Cheik Kongo, MMA veteran Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko.
While a date has not been set for his professional MMA debut, Haskell is expected to continue training for the remainder of 2019, with his first fight expected to take place during the first half of next year.
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