James Haskell mixed martial arts debut confirmed in May for Bellator London


James Haskell will make his eagerly awaited MMA debut in London, on May 16 at Wembley’s SSE Arena.

The 34-year-old will fight on the undercard of Bellator promotion, with his opponent yet to be confirmed.

The former Wasps and Northampton Saints flanker, who won 77 caps for England, called time on his 17-year rugby career before signing with the American MMA promoter three months later.

Having used MMA to aid his rugby training throughout his career, Haskell has been preparing for his professional debut at London Shootfighters, where he has trained for many years alongside the likes of British MMA star Michael ‘Venom’ Page.

Featuring in the main event is the rescheduled bantamweight clash between Irish MMA star James ‘The Strabanimal’ Gallagher and Sunderland’s Cal ‘Pacino’ Ellenor, who were due to headline this weekend’s card in Dublin.

Gallagher and Ellenor were first scheduled to meet in September 2019, but Ellenor withdrew due to injury. Gallagher, who tapped late-notice replacement Roman Salazar in just 35 seconds, was once again set to face ‘Pacino’ at this weekend’s show, but suffered a back injury.

Both rugby and MMA fans alike are dying to see the former England back row take center stage in the Octagon in just three months.

Haskell said when announcing his MMA move last year, per The Sun:

“Mike Tyson said it, everyone has got a plan until you get hit in the face. But for me it is a test, it’s a journey.

Northampton Saints Training Session

“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.

“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 look like I’ve never taken a punch before, it looks like I’m just here for fun. I’m not about that.”

Last year saw Bellator stage two fight nights in the English capital, with a middleweight championship bout featuring Paul Daley and Erick Silva headlining the first in June, before local star Michael Page topped the card in November.

With the third event less than 12 months away, the scene is set for yet another explosive European series card.

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