Thursday, December 8, 2022

Dan Hooker Explains Why He Didn’t Call Out A Name At UFC 281

UFC lightweight contender and fan favorite Dan Hooker has detailed why he left his post-fight callout at UFC 281 this past weekend open.

The MMA leader returned to Madison Square Garden on Saturday for the first time in a year, and brought with it a host of notable matchups, one of which saw UFC mainstay Hooker return to lightweight in search of a rebound performance.

Having gone 1-4 across his previous five outings, including a failed and self-admitted ill-advised return to featherweight this past March, “The Hangman” made some changes behind the scenes and made his way back to 155 pounds to defend his place in the top 15 against Claudio Puelles.

And in the main card opener, the New Zealander did just that.

Despite “Prince of Peru” taking the fight to his wheelhouse in round one and gaining a tight grip of Hooker’s leg, he was unable to secure the appropriate and advantageous position for his patented leglock.

Once that failed, it was smooth sailing for the New Zealander, who pieced a constantly Imanari-rolling Puelles up in round two en route to a TKO victory via kicks to the body.

With the result in New York, Hooker maintained a number next to his name, returned to the win column, and proved those who have suggested he was finished at the highest level wrong.

And there’s clearly no desire to slow down, with “The Hangman” laying out an open challenge to any lightweight willing to meet him close to home turf at UFC 284, set for Australia next February.

As it turns out, there’s a reason why Hooker didn’t single out any potential opponents.

Hooker: “I Will Fight Absolutely Anyone”

During his appearance at the UFC 281 post-fight press conference, Hooker was asked about his Octagon interview with Joe Rogan, during which he outlined his hopes to return in Perth early next year.

After reiterating his belief that he’s earned a spot on the promotion’s return Down Under, Hooker explained why he didn’t attach any names to his callout. In classic “Hangman” fashion, the New Zealander expressed his willingness to share the Octagon with absolutely anyone.

“That’s the date. Somewhere close to home. I feel like I deserve to fight on the first card back down my way. I feel like I’ve done enough to earn a spot on that card,” Hooker said. “I said absolutely anyone that wants to come there and fight that date… I’m so dangerous moving forward. That’s why I didn’t go out there and call a name, I called a date.

“The best man, the best name that puts his hand up for that date’s gonna get it. I will fight absolutely anyone. The best guy — just like I have my entire career, I wanna fight the best — the best guy that puts his hand up for that date, is gonna get it,” Hooker added.

Hooker also pointed to the memorable UFC 281 clash between his former opponents Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, noting that they compete at the level he believes he’s at. With that said, the #12-ranked lightweight is looking to prove he should be fighting amongst “The Diamond” and “Iron” by dispatching whoever is put in front of him next.

“That’s the level of guys that excites me, you know what I mean?” Hooker said. “Going forward, Perth, you wanna give me another unranked guy? I’m more than happy to fight another unranked guy. I told you I was gonna go out there and make him look silly. You give me another unranked guy, I’ll go out there and make them look silly.

“But that’s the guys I should be competing against (Poirier and Chandler). That’s my level. I will fight anyone until I can prove that that’s where I belong,” Hooker continued. “That’s why I set the date and didn’t call a name. Because I wanna see who the fans think I should be fighting… I’m not gonna call for any of these names. I think everyone knows that I’ll fight anyone. We could sit here for hours of you chucking names at me and me saying yeah… I’m happy to let the fans decide.”

Having defended his place in the top 15 this past weekend, it’s clear that Hooker is willing to do the same again if necessary, so long as it takes place in his home continent.

With another victory, “The Hangman” will return to a win streak for the first time since 2020, and make his way back into contention at 155 pounds.

Claudio Puelles & Dan Hooker
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Who would you like to see answer Dan Hooker’s open callout for UFC 284?

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