UFC Auckland: Dan Hooker calling on his ‘spirit animal’ Karl Webber ahead of fight with Paul Felder

Dan Hooker

When Dan Hooker makes the walk to the Octagon this Sunday, he will be guided by one of the most respected figures in New Zealand mixed martial arts.

“Because it’s the main event you get four cornermen,” Hooker said.

“I’ll have my wrestling coach Andrei, my striking coach Tristram, my head coach Eugene and I call him my ‘spirit animal,’ Karl Webber.”

If there is one man who epitomises the blood and guts fighting spirit, it’s Karl Webber.

One of the true pioneers of New Zealand mixed martial arts; Webber is a straight-shooting, no-nonsense type of guy who promoted and fought in unsanctioned, no-holds-barred events throughout the 90s.

Before Kiwi’s were winning UFC titles or picking up awards at the Halbergs, men like Webber were paving the way for the current stock of New Zealand fighters to shine the way they are now.

“He was there when the sport started in New Zealand,” Hooker said.

“People say I was there from the start and in no way shape or form was I here from the start.

“I feel like I was here for the resurgence, but the sport of MMA has a rich history in New Zealand. Guys like Karl Webber, Terry Hill, they were here from the very start so those guys deserve the credit for what’s going on now.”

Webber worked closely with Hooker as he climbed his way up the  Australian and New Zealand regional scene before being signed with the UFC. The man who is also known as ‘Coach Hostile’ has also been in Hooker’s corner for some of his most impressive UFC wins and also arguably his toughest defeat.

“We got a long history me and Karl,” Hooker said.

“He was there for my UFC debut; he was there for my fight against Ross Pearson and we had been undefeated together right up until the Barboza fight.”

The fight against Barboza did not go the Kiwi’s way as Hokker suffered a lot of damage on his way to his first career loss due to strikes.

Despite the defeat, Hooker showed grit and determination that is synonymous with his MMA upbringing that people like Webber helped forge.

“Karl was cornering me for that and I’m glad that he was,” Hooker said.

“He was the one that told me to keep my head up high, that I did myself proud. I knew at one stage we had to get that one back, we are both itching to get that one back and I feel like Felder is the perfect opponent to right some wrongs.

“I feel like there were a lot of wrongs in that fight and this is the fight that will right them. This will answer a lot of questions about that fight in terms of moving forwards towards a title shot.”

Currently ranked number 7, a win over Felder would put Hooker in the picture for a number 1 contender fight or even a shot at the title should chips fall in the Kiwi’s favor.

“I’d become top five in the world and that’s title contention,” Hooker said of beating Felder.

“That’s another main event against a top-five fighter or a title shot. Those are the only two options from there.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov is set to defend the lightweight title against Tony Ferguson in April, with the fight having already been booked four times previously, Hooker understands that there could be an opportunity to jump in on late notice.

“I’ll be ready,” Hooker says with a smirk.

“I’ll be ready.”

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My earliest combat sports memory is watching David Tua knock people out with his left hook.  I am extremely passionate about combat sports in Australia and my home country of New Zealand and I endeavour to grow the profile of martial arts and its athletes in both countries. Persistent Brazilian jiu-jitsu battler.