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Haskell: 'I'll put my life' into MMA switch

Lee Hamilton-Cooper

Former rugby star James Haskell has vowed to "put his life" into making a success of his switch to MMA with the Bellator promotion, but will not be rushed into the cage, pointing to a cautionary tale from Sylvester Stallone's Rocky.

Haskell, who won 76 caps for England in a 17-year professional rugby career, is now embarking on his second sporting life as he attempts to go from novice to a fully-fledged cage fighter.

Eyebrows were raised when the announcement came through Thursday of Haskell's sporting switch, but as he addressed the press Wednesday, there was elements of the usual Haskell wit but equally a steely resolve and focus as he aims to make a success of this career transition.

"I'm not messing around with this, some people think it's like Rocky III when it's all showbiz and then he gets filled in by Clubber Lang," Haskell said. "I'm dedicating my life to this and whatever happens at the end, I'm going to put my life into it.

"I said if we were going to do it, we'd do it properly."

Haskell, 34, has already been in training for five weeks, but has not put a timeframe on when his first professional fight will be with him loosely targeting the first half of 2020.

This is far more than just a mere gimmick for Haskell -- he spoke of how he is looking forward to the mental challenge just as much as the physical side of this switch. He is already well-accustomed to some jujitsu and wrestling after using both disciplines as an aid to his rugby career in the back-row.

But he is sticking close to his coaches at London Shootfighters and is eager not to get too far ahead of himself, aware that if he rushes his first fight then it might not end well.

"I want to make sure I'm in a good place for this," Haskell said. "This is not about PR, it's about taking on a new challenge. I've transitioned from one sport to another and everything takes time. I'm committing as much time to get it right and others will decide it."

Haskell admits he missed the discipline of his professional rugby career after retiring from the sport in May. And when Bellator approached him to see if he wanted to give a different sporting career a shot, then he consulted his family before taking up the offer who gave him their backing.

"I'm back to school, every day's a school day," Haskell said. "I'm training in a place where there are a number of people who can fill me in."

The switch has also garnered interest from his former life in rugby. Eddie Jones, the England coach, wants tickets to Haskell's first fight but joked he does not want a front-row seat as he is worried about being covered in Haskell's blood. Haskell responded by saying he will get Jones a raincoat.