Dan Hooker vs. Paul Felder to headline UFC Auckland

There could be no better locale for Dan Hooker’s first UFC main event than Auckland, New Zealand.

The lightweight will take on Paul Felder in his home city on February 23, per a UFC announcement on Thursday.

Hooker (19-8) last fought at UFC 243 last month, where he defeated former title contender Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision. The win was his second in a row after knocking out James Vick in July.

Felder (17-4) has also closed 2019 with a two-fight win streak, picking up decision wins over Edson Barboza and James Vick.

It’s an ideal scenario for Hooker, who’s been actively campaigning for the UFC’s return to New Zealand. And it’s also a matchup he’s vied for previously. After knocking out Jim Miller in April last year, Hooker was interviewed by Felder and suggested the two meet again in the cage.

“I want a ranked opponent next and I just so happened to be standing across from a ranked opponent, without a fight,” Hooker told him. “So if you’ll do me the honour next, we could get (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) to match it up.”

“I’ve been waiting for somebody to actually have the guts to stand here in front of me and say they wanted to fight me,” Felder replied.

UFC Auckland will take place at Spark Arena on Sunday, February 23. Other bouts currently scheduled for the event include Tyson Pedro vs. Vinicius Moreira, Jake Matthews vs. Emil Meek and Ben Sosoli vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima.

UFC returning to Auckland in February

I’m a Curtin University writing graduate born and bred in beautiful Perth, WA. My interest in combat sports started with an invitation to a Ladies’ BJJ class. It wasn’t long before I started to follow MMA religiously. Although I love training, I’m definitely more writer than fighter. I wanted to tell the incredible stories involved, so I got involved. I’m really passionate about covering the Australian scene and being a (teeny, tiny) part of growing it.