Ex-England rugby star Haskell joins Bellator

Former England international James Haskell will compete in Bellator's heavyweight division after swapping rugby for the Octagon. Lee Hamilton-Cooper

Former England rugby international James Haskell has signed with mixed martial arts promotion Bellator.

Haskell, 34, will compete in Bellator's heavyweight division and could make his professional debut in the first half of 2020, the promotion said in a news release on Thursday.

The former flanker earned 77 England caps during a 17-year international career and played in the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. Haskell retired from rugby at the end of the last season.

According to the news release, Haskell (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) has shown an interest in MMA for several years and has previously trained alongside British MMA star Michael "Venom" Page.

"The journey begins and I could not be more excited," he said in a post on Instagram.

Haskell will be unveiled at a news conference in London on Wednesday.