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TJ Jones: ‘Jake Hager allowed me to have a vested interest in his career’

Coming off of his Bellator MMA debut, TJ Jones checked in with MyMMANews.com to discuss his opening round submission loss to Jake Hager at Bellator 221 this past Saturday night. The event took place at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois and the heavyweight bout took place on the event’s main card.

“Tombstone” discussed what his first Bellator fight week was like, getting so much attention from the fans throughout the fight, the stories and articles coming out during the week about numerous rumored professions outside of the cage, which comparisons and stories he thought were hilarious, his wife and family’s reaction to the opportunity after retiring from the sport a year earlier, how his fandom of The Rock growing up inspired his pre-fight chatter towards his opponent, his first time meeting Hager, what his fight night experience was like — including his dance to the cage, where he goes from here and much more.

Five days removed from the bout, Jones also discussed the finish to the fight, which saw Hager hold on to the winning submission for several seconds after the fight was ended. For “Tombstone”, despite the defeat, that moment provided an additional bit of hunger and drive moving forward.

“I don’t hold a grudge. What happened, happened,” Jones told MyMMANews.com. “What Jake Hager did for me was he allowed me to have a very vested interest in his career. Had he just let go, I would never get to be like, ‘I want a rematch,’ because he beat me in under three minutes and you don’t ask for a rematch after getting beat in under three minutes. However, if Bellator lets me come back, or I go to the regional scene and get a couple of fights, he did something that you don’t do in MMA. When you hear ‘let go’ — and I watched it a bunch of times — and you still don’t let go, next thing you know I look up and there are three of four people around me trying to put me on the stool.

“Even though I don’t hold a grudge, it’s because of his antics that, if I start to put together a winning streak, I can call him back out and say, ‘look dude, we get to run this back. You get to give me another pay day.’ He can make peace with whatever he thinks happened.  I have my opinion and he has his opinion. That’s the beautiful thing about this sport in general: we’re all allowed to have our opinions. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but it’s not going to change. I’m sure his is not going to change. But at the end of the day, something was screwy. Someone messed up — whether it was the ref, whether it was Jake — and if I can take this seriously and I can start a roll and start winning, I get to call him back out again. Whether they give me the fight or not, I don’t know. That one’s on Jake. It has nothing to do with me.”

Watch the full interview with TJ Jones above.