Dan Hooker on fighting Edson Barboza : ‘I want to fight the most dangerous guys’

This weekend in Milwaukee, New Zealand’s Dan Hooker will take a significant step up in competition when he takes on Edson Barboza.

Barboza is the fifth-ranked UFC lightweight and a perennial top contender in the promotions most stacked division.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, this is exactly what ‘The Hangman’ seeks.

Hooker does not want to fly halfway around the world for an easy victory, he competes to test himself against the best fighters in the world.

Disappointed because of the easy nature of his most recent win where he knocked out Gilbert Burns in the first-round, Hooker is relishing the opportunity to finally test himself against one of the division’s best.

Hooker has been busy since the victory over Burns in July. He has become a father for the first time, started his own show/podcast with teammate Israel Adesanya and he has also opened his own gym.

Fight News Australia caught up with the Kiwi to discuss the upcoming fight with Barboza and much more.

Dan Hooker on being a new father

The new baby is going very well, I’m a very happy father. It gives fighting more purpose, but I couldn’t be any more motivated.

Fighting is just what I do.

I wake up in the morning and that’s all I want to do. It’s not something I have to focus on or get motivated for, that’s just in me, that’s in my bones.

I don’t ever wait until I don’t have a fight coming up before I do things because I am aways going to be fighting. I just roll with the punches and it’s been very good so far, I have no complaints.

On running a mentorship programme for his gym – The Combat Academy NZ

I ran a mentorship programme to see what’s out there and give guys an opportunity to train under me.

I want to direct them and show them the right way to do things because I have spent a lot of time learning the hard way and doing things the wrong way.

Thirty-five guys showed up on the day for a trial and it was about an eight-hour day with four to five workouts. We really put it on them.

From that thirty-five, I picked two guys at end of it.

I was impressed with the drive that the guys had. It was a really tough day, fitness testing, beep testing, a two-hour training session and then we went for 15k run uphill and then went for another two-hour training session.

Thirty of the boys stuck it out to the end, so I was impressed with the drive that everybody had.

Is City Kickboxing getting the respect it deserves?

I feel like we are getting there but we are far from reaching our potential.

This sport is always highs and lows and we have had an extremely good run. We constantly have guys coming into the gym, new talented guys so I feel like we are just going from strength to strength. Regardless if we have wins or losses over the next couple of years I feel like we are going to stick it out, grow and develop.

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WAR READY.

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I don’t see anyone from this team going anywhere else. I feel like I will be with this gym until retirement because it just is that good. I will have Eugene (Bareman) as my head coach for the rest of my career, so that tells you the kind of belief I have in this gym.

Fighting Edson Barboza

This is what I want.

I called for the toughest guy, I called for the hardest match up and I got it.

He’s ranked number five, I’m fourteen. This shows you that between me at fourteen and him at number five, no one else in between that was saying this guy’s name because of how dangerous he is.

This is the guy I want to fight. This is the kind of fight that I asked for, the best guys, the most dangerous guys. I feel like I have a point to prove this weekend.

Versatility being the key to victory

I have a lot of plans and I have a lot of options (To beat Barboza).

I feel like my biggest strength is the versatility in my game and I feel like I haven’t even really shown to much of that versatility inside the UFC.

My last two fights I’ve been in the same situation. I’ve had a lot of options and a lot of plans and I honestly haven’t decided until I was warming up and walking out as to the final approach that I wanted to take.

I am very adaptive as well. I can get out there and decide something is not working.

I am very fluid and able to change my plan. I never get set on one plan, I feel like as soon as you are that set on something you become very easy to beat and very easy to read. I like to use that versatility and adaptability as a strength and I’ll decide how to beat him on the night.

I like to talk on a factual basis and we all know what he is going to do. We all know that kind of style he is going to bring and the approach he takes.

He is going to be looking to strike and only strike. He has never employed a wrestling game plan; he has never done anything crazy like switch stance or anything like that. I feel like he is at a disadvantage in that he is easier to read than myself.

Fighting better under pressure

I don’t feel like I have put myself under unnecessary pressure.

I feel like the better the opponent then the better I fight and the more pressure I am under the better I seem to do.

A big problem I have had in my career is not being under enough pressure.

I don’t feel nervous before fights like other fighters do.

I kind of have to put myself under a bit more pressure so I start to feel nerves so I don’t get a couple of rounds into a fight and remember ‘oh I’m in a fight now, I’m in the UFC I have to put this on.’

I want to put myself under a little more pressure than I usually do for this fight, so it brings out an even better Dan Hooker

On fighting at UFC 234 in Melbourne should he defeat Barboza

I haven’t put any thought into it.

When I am up against someone that I am supposed to beat and I am supposed to walk through then I will put in a bit more time into thinking about that.

With a fighter like Barboza man, with a matchup like this, on paper, he is supposed to kick my ass so I’m really focused on the task at hand.

I do have some thoughts in the back of my head though. We all know that I will fight as soon as possible. There is no way Dan Hooker is going to get out of a fight and he’s going to say ‘you know what I am going to go on holiday’ now that is never going to happen.

On the Frenemies podcast

It’s been awesome having Kiwi guys on the show.

I remember the producers when we were putting it together telling us to ring up MMA fighters from America and do this and that and I just nodded my head like ‘yeah yeah cool’ and then when it came down to it the people were asking ‘if you could have anyone on the show who would it be?’

If I could have anyone on the show it would be these guys.

It would be Chris Easley, Karl Webber, Jason Suttie.

I picked exactly who I want out of the whole world. I don’t need a big-name fighter to speak to on skype when I have what I think are far more interesting stories from guys from my backyard.

On his teammate Kai Kara-France’s debut at UFC Adelaide

I’ve been training with Kai for seven years.

That’s a guy I have a lot invested in, I have seen him from a kid at sixteen or seventeen. When I first started training with Kai he was just a kid in the gym so to see him then fight in the UFC on a big stage it was nerve-wracking.

That damn triangle gave me a heart attack. He said it wasn’t close but it looked close to me. But I’m just pumped for him to get a bonus. I told him to soak it in and take some time and enjoy the moment.

He’s very well rounded.

I think people underestimate that he has very good wrestling, a very good ground game. I think he took up BJJ when he was twelve or thirteen so he’s been there a lot of time and he’s learned a lot of hard lessons.

You can see that in his record.

We came from the same gym and that was not a pad your record out, cruise here cruise there type gym. This was a gym where we fight the best guy that we could get our hands on. He especially had a lot of tough fights and he’s learned a lot of hard lessons so, for someone so young and incredibly experienced, I think that’s one of the biggest strengths of Kai.

On Israel Adesanya fighting Anderson Silva

It’s good for him but I don’t see this fight being a winnable fight for Anderson Silva, to be honest, and it’s going to make me sad. I am going to watch it with my eyes behind my hands.

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Damn winner gets a shot at the strap! 😲

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UFC ON FOX 31 takes place at the Fiserve Forum in Milwaukee on Sunday, December 16 (AEST) with the main card starting at 12 pm.

Kevin Lee fights Al Iaquinta in the main event with Hooker v Barboza serving as the co-main.

Kai Kara-France set to fight Raulian Paiva at UFC 234 in Melbourne