JH: I still have a very good relationship with WWE. That’s why they are allowing R-Truth to perform my entrance on Saturday. I thought that was a very good sign from them. It’s a little bit of writing on the wall from them. As far as the Jack Swagger name, they do not have it trademarked. I’m in the process of trademarking the name. I know there’s a singer who has it trademarked for musical performances. But, this isn’t music (laughs). I think I have a good chance of owning it down the line. I won’t have the name for this fight, but hopefully, by the second fight it will be Jack Swagger.SN: What can fans expect from you on Saturday at Bellator 214?JH: Expect me to come out there and make a statement. I don’t want to say I have a chip on my shoulder, but I think I have a lot to prove because this was a big risk because I sacrificed making hundreds of thousands of dollars to be here and go into an ocean full of sharks. I just want to win and answer a lot of questions that need to be answered. Jake Hager, better known by his ring name Jack Swagger, has had a stellar professional wrestling career.Coming out of the University of Oklahoma as an All-American wrestler, Hager signed with WWE in 2006. During his time in the company under the Swagger persona, he won his first title in the promotion in January 2009, winning the ECW championship. After winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at Wrestlemania 26, Hager cashed in his briefcase on March 30, 2010, and captured his first and only world heavyweight championship. At Wrestlemania 29, Hager was in a high-profile match against Alberto del Rio but came up short. Hager left the company in March 2017 and performed on the independent scene. In November of 2017, Hager decided to pursue something he wanted to do for a long time and announced that he had agreed to a multiyear contract with Bellator MMA.The 36-year-old will make his MMA debut Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., at Bellator 214 when he faces J.W. Kiser. Hager took time out of his busy schedule to discuss with Sporting News the reaction of him getting into MMA, why he decided to get into mixed martial arts so late, obtaining the Jack Swagger name and what the difference is between him, Brock Lesnar and CM Punk.MORE: Join DAZN and watch Bellator 214(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)SPORTING NEWS: When you signed with Bellator, most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Did that surprise you considering how passionate both fan bases are and have differing views on the respective sports?JAKE HAGER: I definitely understand the negative responses. Some people work their entire lives to become a professional fighter and see certain guys with exposure or just a name, hop into the professional ranks. It can rub people the wrong way and have them very doubtful of your skills because they see first-hand the hard work and how many years it takes to master this. I wasn’t too surprised with the positive reaction because I know I have a good fan base. I think a lot of people do want to see what I have and have been saying it for some time now.SN: What has the last year been like for you?JH: It has been one of the most grueling, but exciting journeys that I’ve ever been on in my life. I really feel like that’s saying something because of where I’ve been. My team really knew what I needed to work on. I say it’s special and that really doesn’t do it justice. This last year and a half has been one of the most special times of my life and Saturday will be the cherry on top.SN: Can you compare this feeling to anything that you’ve done in your athletic life?JH: Of course, you want to be ready at the right moment. You want to be peaking. You can compare this to college wrestling leading to the big national tournaments where you have to be going really hard and learning to taper off. And in pro wrestling, we had that road to Wrestlemania with WWE. That’s a lot more press than it is training. But at the same time, you have to go out there every week and really sell that storyline. The road to Wrestlemania means so much to those guys. It is really important to do it the right way and make sure the littlest details are done correctly. But this is MMA and it’s Bellator. It’s almost a league of its own.SN: One of the bigger questions coming into fight week from people has been your weight cut since you haven’t had to do that since your days at Oklahoma. You weighed around 270-275 pounds when you were in WWE. Will there be some type of weight cut for you?JH: No weight cut. I’m a tall guy so I have a lot of room to grow into my frame. My body has adjusted very well to training. We essentially doing camp since September. We have been doing two-a-days because I’ve had to wrestle professionally all last year to pay the bills. So during the week, we would get those two-a-days in. The weight is not a problem. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m about 240-245 (pounds). I think that’s what I’m going weigh-in at on Friday. I haven’t been that light since high school, but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.SN: A lot has been made about you getting into MMA so late in the game. You had discussed that you contemplated not signing your last WWE contract in 2013. What made you ultimately decide to make the trek from WWE to Bellator MMA?JH: A lot of it we played by ear. Bellator has been so accommodating to my wrestling schedule. I could come right off television and capitalize on the independent wrestling scene, which is so hot right now. It’s on fire. There’s a lot of money on the table for me to go and make from my exposure from the last 12 years with the WWE. But for me, I just saw an opportunity with the Jack Swagger brand to crossover into something and really have a good chance at it. Honestly, I just knew that I was going to like this and that I’m going to be good at it. You have to have that confidence in yourself because it’s a big risk, but there’s nothing easy in life. Big risk means big reward. I want that. I want to be the best. I want the rewards of this. I want people to say that Jack Swagger/Jake Hager is a world champion in MMA and in pro wrestling. It’s going to be synonymous very soon.SN: As you know, there’s only been one person who made the transition from pro wrestling to MMA and has become a world champion and that is Brock Lesnar. Are you tired of people making the comparison between you and Brock?JH: No, I’m not tired of that comparison. I look at it this way: Everybody has questions. Everybody wants to identify me as a fighter in a certain way. On Saturday, I’m going to answer all those questions. They’re going to see from the show who I am. The questions do get tiresome at times, but it’s part of the game. If people want to compare me to Brock Lesnar – there’s worse people to compare me to.SN: The knock on Brock Lesnar was being able to take a punch and being able to throw one. You already have the wrestling part down pat. Has the standup portion of the sport been the hardest, the easiest or somewhere in the middle for you in this whole process in the last 18 months or so?JH: It was definitely more difficult than I expected. It’s the little details in boxing that makes you an amazing boxer. The little details that go into boxing were difficult at times like controlling the distance, the footwork and using that to set up my wrestling, which I’m good at. You can’t take a shot at someone unless you can touch them. So you have to be within striking distance. You have to be willing to get hit at the same time. There’s a lot of hand fighting in heavyweight wrestling. The little details in boxing take years to master. I think my coaches have a great job to get me ready. The one thing that we notice with Brock and CM Punk is that they weren’t getting punched. They weren’t being allowed to get hit in their camps and in practice. We went right into that and my team made sure that all my training partners were hitting and punching me in the face. That way, when I’m throwing my combinations and I get hit, I’m still finishing my combo. It was very important to my team to focus on that and make sure that I got adjusted to that side of this competition.SN: What was the experience of getting hit like for you?JH:: Anyone that says it’s not a big deal is lying. It sucks (laughs). It’s something you’re not used to because the natural reaction when people are throwing punches is to back up. Well, that puts you in more danger so to unlearn instincts can be tough at times. Adding some pain into it doesn’t make it any easier. Over time and repetition, you get better at it. Now, it’s about getting more experience and continuing to get better.SN: A lot has been discussed about your name. I know when you first signed with Bellator that there were some issues with WWE about using the Jack Swagger name. For this fight at Bellator 214, you using your real name Jake Hager. What ended up happening with WWE on the name issue?