FORMER England rugby union international James Haskell will make his professional mixed martial arts debut in London on May 16, it has been announced.
The retired back-row forward, who played for Wasps and Northampton in a globetrotting career that included spells in France, Japan and New Zealand, hung up his boots in May last year.
But the 34-year-old, who first started working with London-based MMA gym Shootfighters almost a decade ago as part of his rugby training, signed up with US-based fight promoter Bellator in August.
Haskell, whose 17-year rugby career saw him win 77 caps for England, is now set to fight against an as yet unnamed opponent at London’s Wembley Arena.
“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 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’s debut will be on a card headlined by a bantamweight contest between Ireland’s James Gallagher and England’s Cal Ellenor that has already been postponed twice.