Recently retired England international James Haskell has made a shocking announcement after signing a deal with Mixed Martial Arts promotion Bellator to fight in their heavyweight division.
Whether it be DJ-ing or publishing various books, the 77-cap England flanker has always sought to add more strings to his bow and this looks to be his next step.
This may seem like a strange move for the 34-year-old, but he has spoken in the past how he has tried grappling to help him with his rugby and England’s judo sessions have been well documented.
Standing at 6ft 4ins and weighing just short of 19 stone, he will be a physically imposing presence at the very least.
This decision from the ex-Wasps and Northampton Saints star has evoked an interesting reaction from his former team-mates and opponents on social media, as well as those from outside the rugby world.
Joe Marler was quick to comment on Twitter, saying: “If you ever need a sparring partner before the big debut I’ll be happy to help.” He shared a video of a famous scuffle the two players once got in.
There have also been floods of comments on Instagram, as many players support a move like this from one of the biggest characters in rugby. This is what has been said:
Good luck buddy and stay safe ??
— Anthony Ogogo (@AnthonyOgogo) August 22, 2019
— Kyran Bracken (@KyranBracken) August 22, 2019
This is class Hask!! Smash it up ????????
Haskell will not be the first rugby player to try their hand at combat sports, as in recent years Sonny Bill Williams held the New Zealand heavyweight championship in boxing, while his former All Blacks team-mate Liam Messam and Wallaby Quade Cooper have also had professional boxing bouts.
However, Haskell is the most high-profile English player to make the move to combat sports, and certainly to MMA, as this could be a great move for both sports.
While Haskell may not necessarily have youth on his side, he was renowned throughout his career for his work ethic, which will put him in good stead in his new career.
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