Dan Hooker: UFC Melbourne, the featherweight division and the business of fighting

It has been a big year so far for Dan Hooker. An impressive first round submission at UFC Brisbane over Mark Eddiva took his wins inside the Octagon to three and cemented his place as a talented prospect in the featherweight division. He made the move to Thailand to focus on his career and get married and started the first of many training series videos through Udemy.

With UFC Melbourne just around the corner, FNA’s Emma Challands chatted with the Kiwi fighter about who he’d like to fight in November, the state of the featherweight division and the business of fighting.

The New Training Programme. 

“I’ve gathered so much knowledge over the past eight or nine years in sport science and all aspects of training that I wanted to share. I always have people contacting me, asking me questions about what I do for my diet and strength and conditioning so I thought I’d start a video series. I have a lot of things I want to cover in this series so I have many more to come.”

Building a brand & life after the UFC.

“This sport is my passion and my life so of course I want to be in the sport post-UFC. Social media has been an amazing way to build my profile and brand. I’ve met so many intelligent coaches in this sport and I’ve trained at incredible gyms around the world and I can tell you those guys are usually earning the least amount of money. Then you have coaches who are the worst and they make great money. I had to look at it and think to myself that being the best and most knowledgeable isn’t enough. I have to make a living from this sport now and when I stop fighting. There’s no point going to a 9-5 job and training fighters for a couple of hours a night post work. I want to concentrate on this sport full time for the rest of my life and the only way I can do that is by getting out there, building my brand and getting that exposure.”

The Conor McGregor influence. 

“Conor is a talented fighter but so is everyone else. Skill is important but so is being able to sell that skill. You need to have that equal mixture of personality, ability to speak to the media, being able to expose yourself to a wide market and to get your name out there. You also most definitely need to have the talent and skill to back it up. If you don’t then all the talk becomes meaningless. Ultimately the fans just want to see a true reflection of you. I really think Conor is just being Conor. I don’t think he’s putting it on, that is really what he is like.  Other fighters are now cottoning on to this and letting their personality shine. Dom Cruz is the perfect example of this. He’s starting to be himself from out behind the analysts desk and people are loving it.”

“You have to have an insane amount of confidence to be competitive and successful in this sport. Conor’s being very open and honest about it, and now other fighters are following. If you ask him (McGregor) a question you’re going to get an honest answer. You may not like it but he legitimately believes he is going to knock this guy out in two rounds. How can you fault him for that?”

The featherweight division.

“I have to look at it from two perspectives right now. On the one hand I want to see the champ come back down to 145lbs and defend his belt. The division is getting log jammed and people are being made to wait. However on the other hand I look at the money fight for Conor and it’s not the re-match with Aldo, right now it’s Eddie Alvarez at 155lbs. If I was in his position I’d be making a business call and taking whatever the best fight is for business. But as a UFC featherweight? Get back down and defend your belt!”

Aldo V Holloway.

“I think no one has earned the right to fight Jose Aldo more than Max Holloway. A nine fight win streak is just unheard of in the UFC. It’s ridiculous. For him to do that without a shot at title, interim or otherwise…what does he have to do? Kill someone in the cage?”

“As for who wins? I think the Holloway we’ve seen recently is an intelligent fighter. The range, the angles, the movement. I think he’s definitely got Jose Aldo’s number on the feet. I’d like to see how he’d handle the takedowns but striking wise Holloway has his number. I think over the years competing Aldo’s shown the wrinkles in his game – there’s hours of tape on this guy now in the cage. It’s a ridiculous amount of intel you can go back and watch and breakdown. It’s hard to continually evolve when you’re putting everything in the media’s eye like that.”

UFC Melbourne.

“I really want to fight at UFC Melbourne. I had my wedding a month after the Brisbane card so I kept my mouth shut for a while but as soon as the wedding was out of the way, I was hounding the UFC asking for a fight. I’ve had a few near misses, which I can’t discuss, but I’m telling you my head will explode if I don’t get on that card.”

Calling out opponents.

“It’s come to a point in this sport where the fans and match makers want to hear you say a name. Obviously I’d fight anyone, anytime but people don’t want to hear that. At the end of the day no UFC fighter is scared to fight another UFC fighter, if they did they wouldn’t be in the UFC. The name’s I’ve got for you right now are Alex Caceres and Korean Superboy. Those are my top two picks for the main card at UFC Melbourne.”

“Regardless of who I fight next when I win and they hand me the mic I’ll have another name ready. I’ll have someone in mind. I know I want to be at the top wearing the belt and what the quickest way to get to that position is. So you’ll be sure I have a game plan to do that.”

Mark Hunt.

“I don’t think we will see Mark in Melbourne. I mean it’s up to him. I can only speculate on the position he’s in or the relationship he has with the UFC now. Publicly it doesn’t look good or that fighting will be on the cards for him anytime soon.

TUF 24.

“Kai Kara-France is a killer. The kid has a bright future in the UFC regardless of the outcome of the show. He’s going to impress. He’s got the skills to work his way up the ranks, he has ridiculous one punch knock-out power for the division. His stand up is amazing. Kai’s been in Thailand for five years now, he knows how to knock people out. No one can get past that right hand but he has plenty more weapons than that. I have no doubt he’ll get a UFC contract and it’ll be great to have another Kiwi in the UFC with me.”

“Can Demetrious Johnson be beaten? The funny thing about the UFC is they build it up, the rankings all this stuff and so fans and the media start to believe that there’s no way that number fifty can beat number one – but I honestly believe every dog has its day. If number 50 has a bad day when number 100 has a good day I believe number 50 can take them out. There’s a mentality that the top 10 are untouchable but there is so many ways to win and so many different ways to lose in the sport. The game is a lot closer than people think. One of these guys most definitely has a shot at beating Demetrious Johnson.”

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Emma Challands
Owner, Editor Fight News Australia
Combat sports enthusiast.