The ex-loose forward, who represented England in 77 tests between 2007 and and 2018 and was named in the Lions’ tour of New Zealand three years ago, hung up his rugby-playing boots last May and his since forged a professional career in the combative sport.
Haskell first started working with London-based MMA gym Shootfighters almost a decade ago as part of his rugby training, but the 34-year-old stepped into the realm of professionalism in August when he signed up with US-based fight promoter Bellator.
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The former Wasps stalwart, whose globe-trotting career also saw him represent the likes of Northampton, Stade Francais, the Highlanders and Ricoh Black Rams, will now fight a yet-to-be-named opponent at Wembley Arena in the British capital.
“I don’t shy away from the fact that, ahead of many of these guys (at his gym), I’ve got a Bellator contract,” Haskell told The Guardian in an interview published on Monday.
“But I’m putting the hard work in and if somebody wants to have a tear-up with me we’ll have one. I will give it my all because I’m representing Bellator and my gym.”
Haskell has previously spoken of his desire to pursue a post-rugby career in MMA, and has shot down speculation regarding the seriousness of his intentions in the sport.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 20, 2020
“I’m not messing around with this. There has been overwhelming support but some people think it’s a bit like a scene out of Rocky III,” he told the BBC last year.
“I’m dedicating my life to this. I want to make sure I am in the best possible shape and whatever happens at the end of it I am going to put as much dedication into this as I did into rugby.
“I’m deadly serious about it. I don’t want it to be the case where I get into the cage and I look like I’ve never taken a punch before, it looks like I’m just here for fun. I’m not about that.”
Haskell’s debut will be on a card headlined by a bantamweight bout between Irish fighter James Gallagher and England’s Cal Ellenor that has twice been postponed already.
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