There is a new fighter making his way to the Bellator MMA Heavyweight Division as James Haskell has signed a multi-fight deal with the promotion.
Haskell has yet to compete as a professional MMA fighter, but has been a professional rugby player for nearly two decades. Haskell’s promotional debut hasn’t been announced at this time, but he’ll enter a weight class currently ruled by Ryan Bader.
Bellator MMA issued the following press release on the matter:
FORMER INTERNATIONAL RUGBY STAR JAMES HASKELL SIGNS FOR BELLATOR MMA
LONDON – Leading mixed martial arts promotion Bellator MMA is excited to announce the signing of 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 English Premiership club 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 and 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 to 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.
Alongside achieving 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.
Whilst 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 2020.
Bellator is a leading global mixed martial arts and kickboxing organization featuring many of the best fighters in the world. Under the direction of veteran fight promoter Scott Coker, Bellator events take place in major cities worldwide and can be seen on television in over 160 countries to an available audience of over one billion people. In the United States, Bellator can be seen on both Paramount Network and DAZN, the world's first truly dedicated LIVE sports streaming service. Bellator is comprised of an executive team that includes top industry professionals in television production, live event orchestration, fighter development/relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations. Bellator is based in Hollywood, Calif. and owned by entertainment giant Viacom, home to the world's premier entertainment brands that connect with audiences through compelling content across television, motion picture, online and mobile platforms.
About Paramount Network:
Paramount Network is a premium entertainment destination that pushes the limits of story-telling with bold original scripted and non-scripted series. Inspired by over a century of cinema, Paramount Network is where today's brightest stars bring the experience of the big screen to every screen with stories that are immersive, inclusive, and deeply personal.