Dan Hooker fully understands the position he’s in as he gets ready to welcome Michael Chandler to the Octagon at UFC 257 on Jan. 23.
In September, it was announced that the former three-time Bellator lightweight king in Chandler had signed with the UFC. Initially acting as the backup to the title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, “Iron Mike” now has a date with a “Hangman” to start his new promotional tenure.
Having been heavily promoted and hyped as an immediate player in the 155-pound ranks, Michael Chandler vs. Dan Hooker at UFC 257 looks to put each man in unique spots. For Chandler, he could win and get a title shot. Hooker, on the other hand, would spoil the party and presumably push himself back into contention.
When discussing why fellow top-ranked lightweights such as Tony Ferguson, Charles Oliveira, and the aforementioned Gaethje didn’t want to face Chandler, the Auckland native expressed the following.
“I think they just wanted to get him to a title shot as quickly as possible,” Hooker told SCMP MMA. “Anyone that’s been following the sport for a good amount of time knows that danger lies in time. Father time in this sport is not your friend. They want him to come in and look like the man, you know? So if he comes in and he whitewashes a top 5, top 4, top 3 opponent, then people will start going, ‘Title shot, title shot, title shot,’
“Because like 95 percent of people that watch it are lazy. They’ll only watch the highlight reel in the buildup to the fight so they’ll be like, ‘Whoa, he’s a former champ in another organization? He came in and beat a top 5. Now he’s fighting for a title!’ They’re not gonna actually go back and watch his fights. There’s like 5 percent of people that really study the sport and really watch the sport and really research the sport.
“The danger lies in getting to the top 5,” Dan Hooker continued. “If you were to put him against anyone else who’s come up in the UFC, like top 50, then a top 30, then a top 20, then a top 15-10… then his chances of losing skyrocket exponentially. So the quicker they can get him to a title, the quicker they could market and sell him. To me, you’re gonna give me the new toy? I’m gonna break the new toy real quick. They invested a whole lot of money to get this guy out of his contract and get him over to the UFC and they’re gonna throw him in with me who’s like a bad stylistic matchup and I’m gonna break the toy in five minutes. It’s like, yeah… I can’t say I feel sorry for them (laughs).”
Dan Hooker (20-9) last fought in June where he and Dustin Poirier went to war for five straight rounds. Unable to come out with his hand raised, Hooker left a lasting impression in a fight of the year contender.
Michael Chandler’s (21-5) lone fight of 2020 saw him rematch former UFC and WEC titleholder Benson Henderson. Only needing two minutes and nine seconds, Chandler would put “Smooth” away via knockout with punches in round one.
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