Now Reading
Dan Hooker is feeding off buzz in City Kickboxing before his UFC 243 bout

Dan Hooker is feeding off buzz in City Kickboxing before his UFC 243 bout

Dan Hooker competes at UFC Milwaukee

With City Kickboxing buzzing after interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya’s title unification bout was booked for UFC 243, Dan Hooker wanted in on the action himself.

The Auckland-born lightweight couldn’t bear to sit back and be a spectator, even though his teammate and friend’s chance at reaching the top of the 185-pound division provides enough of a reason to make the trip to Melbourne for the card.

“I would be livid if I didn’t get a match on this card and like this sort of energy was going on and I had to fly over to Melbourne and sit in a crowd or fly over to Melbourne and sit out back with everyone,” Hooker told John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock. “I would be fuming.”

Hooker hasn’t been shy about calling fighters out. He knew he needed a fight, so he put a feeler out on Twitter, hoping to reel someone in.

He hooked Al Iaquinta.

Iaquinta responded saying that he’s happy to make the trip down to Australia for the bout, and after some back-and-forth between the two lightweights, the fight was eventually signed and booked for UFC 243.

“I was like super surprised it actually happened,” Hooker said. “I was kind of shocked. I thought I was like pushing my luck even getting on the card, but to not only get on the card but to get to compete against the number six. Yeah, very surprised.”

Hooker finds himself holding onto the final spot in the UFC’s lightweight rankings at No. 15. Despite competing against No. 6 Iaquinta, who is coming off of a five-round decision loss to Donald Cerrone, Hooker is a slight favorite heading into this bout.

“[Being the favorite is] not really gonna help me at the end of the day,” Hooker said. “If I was, you know, 10-to-1 favorite, that would make me more nervous because now you’re like, you’re super expected to win. If I was, you know, the 1-to-10 underdog that makes me excited. Like that makes me excited, that makes me want to prove people wrong and do good.”

Dan Hooker on rebounding from his last loss

In order to get a fight on UFC 243, Hooker needed to come out of his bout with James Vick in July relatively unscathed. Hooker’s return at UFC San Antonio came seven months after he was battered by Edson Barboza at UFC Milwaukee at the end of 2018. That fight saw Hooker get picked apart by Barboza at range before he eventually was stopped by body shots in the third round.

His eventual return was an emphatic one, to say the least.

Against the taller, longer Vick — a rare opponent for the lanky “Hangman” — it was Hooker who pieced up his opponent before eventually scoring a brutal first-round knockout.

Obviously, the result was exactly what Hooker wanted. But even before he stepped into the Octagon with Vick, he didn’t have any extra mental battles to overcome after seeing his four-fight winning streak come to an end against Barboza.

“This is just what I do. It’s fairly straightforward to me,” Hooker said. “That’s the funny thing. Like people expected me to kind of, I don’t know, like change or, you know, approach the sport in like a different way, but like losses to me and overcoming losses, this is all part of it. It’s all part of being a fighter. Like, you fight for a living. No matter what happens to you, you can pull yourself back up.”

Dan Hooker of New Zealand kicks Marc Diakiese of Congo in their lightweight bout during the UFC 219 event
Dan Hooker kicks Marc Diakiese in their lightweight bout during the UFC 219 event (Source: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC)

For Hooker, who was a fan of the sport before he found himself competing in it as well, that has always been his approach.

“There’s guys that come in and out and you know, they’re like flash in the pan and they have the, you know, 10 fights and, you know, they come in and they’d been built up well and they had the 8-0 records and then they come in like eat a few losses and they’re like, ‘Oh well, I guess that’s it’. Like, they’re just not like lifers to me,” Hooker said.

“The guys I looked up to when I first got into the sport is, you know, the guys with the 30, 40 fights, and they fought on every continent, and they fight anyone and they fight on all these different shows. Like you see that in guys like, [Jorge] Masvidal, guys like, Robbie Lawler, Matt Brown. Like these are the kind of guys that I feel like I’m cut from the same cloth as. Not the flash in the pan undefeated style.”

Training at City Kickboxing

Much of the success Hooker has had in his UFC career he attributes to his time training under Eugene Bareman at City Kickboxing. Unlike other coaches who plead for fighters to stay and train with them, Bareman gave Hooker and his teammates the freedom to train at different locations around the world, not taking offense if they chose to leave the gym. Eventually, they all came back.

Bareman’s unique approach to coaching has bred positive results. Adesanya made a quick rise after joining the UFC in 2018. Alexander Volkanovski will soon fight for the featherweight title at UFC 245.

The success of the gym has had a noticeable impact on the atmosphere during training.

“There’s such a buzz when you go in the gym,” Hooker said. “It’s just buzzing man. Like every training session, you could just feel like an extra bit of energy, you know, with Israel, with Brad [Riddell], with all of our teammates, cause we know that the storm is brewing.”

The gym has grown over time. Now, one can expect to see upwards of 60 fighters — some veterans, some newcomers — during sparring sessions.

“There’ll be 30 very experienced fighters, MMA fighters, kickboxers who I work with and we can pull from,” Hooker said. “If you need a southpaw, if you need a 6-foot-5 southpaw, if you need a five-foot southpaw, if you need a wrestler, you need a jiu-jitsu guy, you need a striker, you need a boxer you need a Muay Thai fighter like there’s — You can pretty much pull anything out of the bag off the mat.”

City Kickboxing may be continuing to grow, but it is still fighting for international recognition. UFC 243 provides that opportunity to get some.

“It’s all happening at once,” Hooker said. “Like this is a world title. This is what we all do this for is to hold up a world title, and Israel is kind of getting that opportunity and we’re all riding off the back of that.

“It’s such a huge fight for the New Zealand and Australian fans, you know, it’s such a big arena, such a big opportunity for all of us. You know, Brad’s getting signed to the card. I get to be on the card and get my shot against one of the top guys in the world. Like it’s just brewing into a perfect storm and it just makes training so easy.”

READ MORE
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

READ MORE

Scroll To Top