UFC: Dan 'Hangman' Hooker not surprised Dana White is leading the way in sports resumption

Kiwi lightweight Dan 'The Hangman' Hooker isn't surprised UFC president Dana White is leading world sport out of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Octagon returned to action last Sunday (NZ time) - the first global sports organisation to resume business, since the pandemic hit the world two months ago. Hooker watched intently, as division rivals Justin Gaetjhe and Tony Ferguson battled out the main event.

And the combat sports promotion is full steam ahead, with two more cards on Thursday and Sunday in a jam-packed week of mixed martial arts action. 

White has been particularly aggressive in his mission to get live fights back on TV, even promising to promote cards throughout the remainder of 2020 from a mystery 'Fight Island'. 

Hooker, who has won seven of his last eight fights, tells Newshub he's stayed in shape throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, knowing his boss was likely to have more than a few tricks up his sleeve. 

"I've seen Dana take the sport from obscurity to mainstream to ESPN to seeing it on the morning news in New Zealand," Hooker notes. "It's incredible what he's done with the sport in such a small amount of time

"I knew full well he would have sent a plane down here to pick me up at any time, had one of those guys fallen out, so I needed to stay ready and stay prepared.

"It's nothing I didn't know from the guy - I was expecting this from Dana White."

Dana White
Dana White Photo credit: Reuters

Hooker yearns for a return to some sort of normality and with the country moving to Alert Level 2, he is set to resume training with a selection of City Kickboxing teammates.

With the likes of Israel Adesanya, Kai Kara-France and Brad Riddell all showing interest in the 'Fight Island' concept, Hooker thinks booking all the Auckland-based fighters on the same card makes sense. 

"It's always good being surrounded by teammates," he says. "If this 'Fight Island' is a thing, I'm sure it'll save on sending a plane down there to pick us all up. 

"If a few of us got on that plane, it'd make more sense for the UFC, but it's an individual sport at the end of the day. 

"I like to roll with the punches... if there's one of us, 10 of us, I'm happy to go regardless.

"I've stayed fit during the lockdown, so if the opportunity presents itself, I don't want me not being ready to be the reason why I can't take that opportunity."

And with the UFC lightweight division as hot as it's ever been, Hooker is ready for the call-up for the biggest fight of his career.

The Kiwi was originally set to fight No.2 contender Dustin Poirer this weekend and that fight is still very much part of his plans.

But so is a potential short-notice shot at the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gaethje or even Conor McGregor, if the opportunity arises. 

"This whole sport is risk versus reward, so if you offer me someone higher than me in those rankingsand that presents me with a huge reward, I'm happy to take the risk."

"I'm happy to step in there next weekend or the weekend after. 

"One or two weeks, I'm happy to go. If you gave me someone ranked higher than me, I'll be ready to go in a heartbeat."

That fighting spirit could well see the Aucklander fighting for UFC gold before the end of 2020. 

 

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