Jake Hager: T.J. Jones 'did get under my skin' before Bellator 221
ROSEMONT, Ill. – Jake Hager admits he had a little extra fuel to his fire going into Bellator 221. However, he is adamant none of that played a role in holding a choke too long in his victory over T.J. Jones.
Hager (2-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), a former WWE superstar known as Jack Swagger, was showered with boos after he submitted Jones (1-2 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) with an arm-triangle choke in their heavyweight bout. He held the choke beyond the time the referee initially intervened, which caused a negative reaction.
Although Hager embraced the outburst from the crowd at Allstate Arena, he insisted there was no malice in the moment.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Hager told reporters, including MMA Junkie, post-fight at Bellator 221. “I legitimately thought that was him pushing on my arm, and I had specific instruction before in the locker room, from the referee who was a very large man, he told me he would get me off him.”
Hager argued his actions should be forgiven judging by how he carried himself in the lead-up to Bellator 221. He said he felt Jones attempted to provoke him at every possible opportunity, and some of it actually worked.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t get under my skin,” Hager said. “From the moment he took the fight he was on Facebook. He had some good jokes, and then he had some stupid jokes, and it did get under my skin. Then he came here, and he kept up the antics. I don’t appreciate that, but in the end I’m a professional.”
The bottom line for Hager coming out of Bellator 221 is that he got the win. It was another dominant performance from the crossover athlete, and he said he’s eager to continue climbing the rankings and could even see himself fighting for Bellator gold in 2020.
Hager said he wants to return to action soon and is excited to continue with his growth in MMA.
“I’ll take about a week off,” Hager said. “Don’t they have a fight at Madison Square Garden in a bit? Who knows? It was three months before this one. I think we’re going to continue with that timeframe. I plan to be 4-0 by the time Donald Trump gets re-elected.”