Web
Analytics

The Best Resource For Mixed Martial Arts MMA

Dan Hooker says it’d take ‘a million bucks’ to get him back down to 145: ‘Drunk I fight better than that’

46 0

LAS VEGAS — Dan Hooker first made his name with a successful run as a regional lightweight champion on the Australian fight scene, but everything changed once he got the call-up to the UFC and decided to drop down to 145 pounds.

While the six-foot-tall Hooker held a size advantage over many of his Octagon foes at featherweight, his results were mixed, leading Hooker to compile a middling 3-3 record over his first six UFC appearances. Whenever Hooker re-watched his fights back, he struggled to recognize the man who bore his name inside the cage. He eventually realized that the cut down to 145 pounds was relegating him to be little more than a shell of himself on fight night.

So Hooker went back to the basics this summer. He vaulted back to 155 pounds and, fighting at a more natural weight, had one of the best performances of his young career, scoring a highlight-reel knockout over veteran lightweight Ross Pearson at UFC Auckland.

The win was eye-opening.

And now?

“Let’s just put it this way, it’d take a million bucks to get me back down to featherweight,” Hooker said ahead of UFC 219. “I ain’t going back.

“Just, I feel like myself (at 155). I was stepping in there at feather and I just felt like I was taking away from my abilities. I think the most [it affected me] was mentally. I felt not clear-headed in there and I couldn’t think, and my skill and my ability to out-think the other guy is what separates me from the rest of the pack. So rather than carrying the extra size, trying to be bigger and stronger, I just scrapped the weight cut, scrap all of that, I’m just going to fight at my weight and do my skillset justice, and I think I can beat anyone in the world doing it like that.”

Hooker’s story is far from an isolated one. Several fighters over recent years have found great success competing at a healthier weight rather than depleting their bodies to make a lighter weight class, respected names like Robert Whittaker, Rafael dos Anjos, and Anthony Johnson.

Asked to elaborate on what he meant by not being clear-headed in the cage at featherweight, Hooker was frank.

“Just not like I am seven days of the week in training, you know?” Hooker said. “Like, there’s a lot you can block out mentally and push to the side. Like I could wake up fight day with a broken hand and I’m going to say, ‘Ah, I feel good. I feel like million bucks.’ But then reflectively, looking back on it and watching the performances, I watched and that’s just not me. Like, I look and that’s not me. That’s not me. Not even on a bad day, that’s me. Drunk, I fight better than that. So now I’m fighting like myself.”

Hooker says the positives felt by his move up in weight have been innumerable, not only in competition, but also in his daily life. The 27-year-old New Zealander feels like the decision has added years back onto his career, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the sport gradually moves toward his way of thinking as it matures.

“There’s a lot of guys getting good results from it,” Hooker said. “I think it has the biggest impact long-term, we haven’t even seen the effects of it long-term. You just can’t do it (extreme weight-cutting) over long periods of time, like five years, 10 years. These guys are going to have to retire a lot earlier. I felt like I could’ve only had a few more years left in me at feather. If that was my only weight class, I would’ve had to walk away. But at lightweight, I feel like I can fight. I feel reborn. I feel like I’ve got another decade in me at lightweight.”

Hooker now carries that positive momentum into a pay-per-view contest against English prospect Marc Diakiese on Saturday at UFC 219.

Though he dropped his last fight via split decision, Diakiese is still considered one of the more intriguing up-and-comers at 155 pounds, and the 24-year-old “Bonecrusher” is rarely shy about letting opponents know what’s coming. Diakiese is a talker through and through, and he’s thrown plenty of verbal jabs at Hooker as UFC 219 approaches. But Hooker isn’t buying what Diakiese is selling.

“I’m not even going to get into the back-and-forth of it,” Hooker said. “Like, it’s childish. It’s not what I’m about. I come here for a fistfight, not for an argument. Saying I don’t look like a fighter — what does a fighter look like? I don’t know.

“I’m a man about it, I’m not going to create something that isn’t there. If I have drama with a guy or I actually dislike someone, I have no problem sorting it out. I have no problem getting into conflict about it. I enjoy conflict. It’s what I like to do, physical conflict. I like confrontations. I’m not going to create something though. That’s fake. I’m not fake. I’m just here. I’m sitting here and I’m just being who I am. I’m not creating anything, I’m not trying to put on a persona. It’s just not who I am.”

Hooker is listed as a slight underdog against Diakiese heading into UFC 219, and a win over a highly-regarded prospect like the Englishman would do wonders to propel Hooker into the shark-infested waters at lightweight.

With his newfound confidence at 155 pounds, “The Hangman” appears poised for a big run in 2018 — but he also isn’t willing to let himself get too far ahead of himself after riding the roller-coaster that is the UFC for nearly four years.

“I’ve been around this sport too long. I’ve been around this sport and I’ve been fighting, and I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of the lows to take anything for granted,” Hooker said. “So I can’t just go, ‘Oh, yep, it’s my time, blah, blah, blah,’ and drift away and be carried away with it. No, focus on the task at hand and you can just take each fight at a time, focus on that opponent and just take it as it comes.”


Source – link to original article