File image of Dan Hooker.(Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
File image of Dan Hooker.(Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

EXCLUSIVE | Dan Hooker feels he could get a title match with 'big stoppage or exciting finish' at UFC 257

  • The lightweight division will see another exciting match-up as Kiwi fighter Dan Hooker (20-9) faces former Bellator champion Michael Chandler (21-5).
By YASH BHATI
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 12:33 PM IST

UFC 257 is the company's first PPV of 2021 and they have brought fireworks for the event. Former champion Conor McGregor is making his return to the Octagon after a year as he fights former interim champion, Dustin Poirier in the main event. The lightweight division will see another exciting match-up as Kiwi fighter Dan Hooker (20-9) faces former Bellator champion Michael Chandler (21-5).

The co-main event is expected to be an exciting fight as a fan favourite and the No.6 ranked-Hooker will look to suspend the hype around Chandler, who is making his UFC debut. It is also an interesting match-up as there is a potential for a championship contender coming out from the co-main event of UFC 257.

Hooker is looking forward to fighting Chandler , who he believes deserves the hype that surrounds him. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times' Yash Bhati, Hooker also talked about sparring, lack of crowds, lightweight division, Conor-Dustin fight, and USADA's removing marijuana as a punishable offence.

Excerpts:-

This is Chandler’s first fight in the UFC. There is some hype behind him. What is your analysis of his fighting style?

I definitely feel, he deserves the excitement and hype that is surrounding him during his UFC debut. Inside Bellator, he was a three-time world champion. So he has been competing at a high level for a very long time. I am excited as all the fans. I want to see his level at the UFC.

If you win this fight, do you think you’ll have a shot at the title if Khabib is indeed retired?

I feel my performance will warrant my callout. If I get a big stoppage or a very exciting finish. Khabib has said that he will be watching the main event and co-main event of UFC 257 and whoever puts on an impressive stoppage, he will potentially come back and give a shot. Also there could also be a potential fight with Conor McGregor which is huge. Those two names are very exciting but it definitely doesn’t distract me from the task at hand and that’s Michael Chandler.

There was a lot of talk about Holloway not sparring for a fight? What is your take on that strategy?

I find that a lot of experienced fighters don’t spar. We at City Kickboxing, spar twice a week but it is not hard sparring. There is controlled sparring. I like to spar for fun. I think I could do without it but it is something I enjoy.

Would less sparring prolong a fighter’s career?

Definitely. Definitely. Another thing, I think sparring should be controlled and there should be no real focus on hurting your partners. I think the intention should be to increase your timing and working on new techniques. I don’t think fighters should ever spar with intend to hurt their training partners.

Conor and Dustin fight in the main event. You have fought Dustin recently. What do you think will happen during the fight?

I definitely don’t think it is going to go like the first fight. I feel Dustin is far more durable than that and has a gas tank. He is far more controlled and more mature as a fighter. I think that might go the distance and could be a very closely contested fight.

If you had to choose a realistic opponent for your next fight, who would you want to take on?

My main focus is being a world champion. I am able to see past the big names. It comes down to whoever is holding the title and whoever is in my way of holding the title. With a win at UFC 257, it could potentially be for the title or just a fight away from the title. I am so close, I can’t be excited by the possibilities. I have to focus on this fight.

You recently said that Tony’s loss could be because of loss of crowds. Now UFC 257 will have a crowd, how much difference do you think it will make in your performance since you last fought in an empty arena against Poirier.

2000 people in a 18000 arena, is not going to be the same like we are traditionally used to like when I fought in sold-out arenas in my hometown. And the energy and buzz, there is nothing like that. But that’s 2000 more people than last time and I happy with that. I am just grateful for those 2000 fans to be in the arena.

Is it a big deal to fight on the same card as McGregor as so many eyeballs are put on you?

It is exciting for me. There is a press conference with big names. I am also a fan and I get the best seat in the house. 99% focus will be on Conor McGregor and I am just as interested as everyone else.

USADA recently struck down the use of marijuana as a punishable offence. Several fighters have faced the issues in the past. What are your views about the recent development?

I definitely don’t think it is a performance-enhancer. What it can actually do is slow you down a little bit (laughs). I would encourage my opponents to use as much as possible. I am glad they got rid of that silly rule.

(Watch UFC 257, featuring fighters like Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Dan Hooker and Jessica Eye, on January 24, 2021 LIVE and Exclusive on SONY TEN 1 and SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels from 8.30 am IST)

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