Retired England rugby union international James Haskell has signed fight deal with Bellator MMA.
Haskell, who is Bellator’s mystery announcement teased earlier in the week, is expected to make his MMA debut as a heavyweight in 2020.
😳 Big news coming at 10AM BST.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) August 22, 2019
The 34-year-old, who earned 77 caps playing for England, retired from rugby in May.
Haskell has long been featured on MMA content in the U.K., having appeared on British broadcaster BT Sport in various television spots training with MMA fighters.
His first fight is expected to be in the first half of year 2020.
Read the full press release below:
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 sport’s 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.