Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Hooker: Khabib’s Mind Games Won’t Affect UFC 267 Performance

UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker says Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s comments won’t affect his performance against the Russian’s teammate Islam Makhachev on Saturday.

Just days out from his unanimous decision victory over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 last month, Hooker found himself for preparing for another clash, this time against the #5-ranked Makhachev at UFC 267.

Having suffered consecutive losses at the hands of Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, “The Hangman” had fallen down the rankings and out of title contention. If he can secure a second win in barely a month, especially given the challenge he faces this weekend, the New Zealander will no doubt throw his name back into the hat of contenders to the 155-pound gold.

Makhachev will certainly be no easy opponent, and will understandably head into their main card clash on Saturday as the favorite. The Dagestani has built an eight-fight win streak, the most recent of which came in his main event debut earlier this year. In the UFC Vegas 31 headliner, the 31-year-old submitted the ranked Thiago Moisรฉs in the fourth round.

On a stacked card that features two title fights, the return of Khamzat Chimaev, and a host of top prospects from outside of America, this exciting lightweight clash has the potential to steal the show.

Hooker Won’t Let Khabib Affect His Gameplan

Whilst Hooker and Makhachev have refrained from any real trash talk ahead of this fight, even engaging in a respectful handshake at Thursday’s press conference, the same can’t be said for some members of the Russian’s team. American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez and former UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov have both made their thoughts on Hooker’s chances of having his hand raised in Abu Dhabi known.

“The Eagle,” who is a friend and teammate of Makhachev, suggested that Hooker’s only hope of victory is to land a “lucky punch.” Having previously responded to those claims, Hooker has now revealed why he believes members of his opponent’s camp have continued to downplay his abilities.

During an appearance on Submission Radio, Hooker suggested Khabib and Mendez’s comments derived from their desire to force him to fight Makhachev in a certain style and with a certain goal in mind. However, “The Hangman” is aware of what he perceives to be mind games, and says it won’t affect his performance come fight night.

“I feel like I know what they’re [Mendez and Khabib] doing… They’re trying to put that thought into my mind where I’m just like, ‘Ah, I’ve got to knock him out.’ But then as soon as you’re only trying to knock someone out or look for that big finish, you get heavy and you get slow, and you’re waiting, and to perform that knockout strike, you’re very planted and heavy on your feet. It’s very easy for someone to grab hold of you when you’re in that state. So that’s definitely not what I’m thinking.

“All of the times I’ve knocked someone out, I’ve not been trying to knock them out, I’ve just been fighting my fight, and feeling sharp, and doing the things that I need to do, and making good decisions, and the knockouts just happen, they just come. That’s what I’m preparing for. I’m preparing for going out there and being in a state where I perform my best; making great decisions and getting the best of this guy, and proving that I’m the better fighter. If a knockout comes, if a submission comes, then it comes. But I truly feel like I’m gonna win this fight.”

With that in mind, Hooker has revealed that, given the doubts many have about his ability to outclass Makhachev, he’d rather deliver a dominant three-round display at UFC 267 over a quick KO. Either way, if the #6-ranked contender has his way, the likes of Khabib will be eating their words inside the Etihad Arena on Saturday.

Who do you think will emerge victorious at UFC 267, Dan Hooker or Islam Makhachev?

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