Dan Hooker says ‘it’s a real possibility’ he returns to featherweight, targets Korean Zombie


A weight class change may be on the horizon for Dan Hooker.

The longtime lightweight recently teased a move back down to featherweight by posting a video online in which he successfully hit 145.9 on the scale. On The MMA Hour on Wednesday, Hooker explained that he made the test cut to prove to skeptics that if he decides to return to 145 pounds, he can do so safely.

“I made the weight,” Hooker said. “That wasn’t for me, I know I can make the weight. That’s to try to convince a few people that need convincing. Obviously, my coaches were not that keen on me going back to ‘45, but that’s me stepping on the scale and making it look pretty easy, if I’m being honest.

“From when I was there in the past and to where I am now, just obviously the science and the people that are a part of the UFC, like Charles [Stull] ‘The Angry Dietician,’ the fight dietician that I work very closely with, and Clint [Wattenberg] and the people at the PI have all been — it’s been smooth sailing. That took me all of two weeks to get down and cut to that weight, so if I can do it in two weeks on holiday, you give me a fight, that’s a whole different story.”

According to Hooker, he cut down from the same weight that he would if he were cutting to lightweight. Hooker didn’t specify exactly what his starting weight usually is, but said getting down to 155 pounds typically requires dieting for a week and then spending time in the sauna, whereas getting down to 145 pounds would require a stricter diet and a more complicated weight-cutting procedure.

The process was made easier by Hooker and his family currently being in Las Vegas, where he has access to the UFC Performance Institute. Having that facility and its staff at his disposal means that attempting the featherweight cut now compared to five years ago when he last fought in the division is vastly different.

Nothing official has been discussed, but Hooker made it clear that moving down in weight won’t be an issue if the right opportunity comes along.

“That’s a strong possibility,” Hooker said. “The problem was I didn’t really ask, I just talked to Jordi [Sullivan] and Charles, my dieticians, and that was it really. I just talked to them and just went along and got the job done and did it. I haven’t even talked to the UFC about it, so maybe Sean Shelby’s seen it, maybe he hasn’t. We’ll see.”

Hooker knows that his team would not have approved of the test cut based on his past struggles. However, given that he’s lost three of his last four fights at lightweight — including his first-round submission loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 267 in October — Hooker had to consider his options.

If he can make featherweight, Hooker sees himself as having advantages that he didn’t have at 155 pounds.

“For one, it’s just an advantage that I haven’t been capitalizing on if I’m being honest,” Hooker said. “There’s a number of advantages that I haven’t been capitalizing on, but that’s just one of them. So it’s kind of moving forward and learning from the past. You have to make adjustments for the future and that’s just one of them. Getting back, working with my team, that travel opening up to the world. I’m excited for the future. I feel like featherweight is the weight class that I can really thrive at and it’s a weight class where I can really capitalize on all of my advantages.

“On the same turn I get to get back to New Zealand and in the future I’ll be training and going into fights with a full camp. Traveling with my full coaching staff and then competing at a weight class that I feel pretty content with and pretty comfortable with. So I’m definitely excited for the future.”

Hooker has had to deal with a series of complications since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, with his home country of New Zealand enacting strict protocol that has limited the operations of his City Kickboxing gym, as well as made booking fights extraordinarily difficult. Over the course of his past four fights, Hooker has spent the equivalent of months in quarantine away from his family.

Now that his professional and personal life have begun to settle down, relatively speaking, Hooker can afford to look ahead to what’s next. If it is a featherweight fight, he has one specific dance partner in mind.

“Head and shoulders, the No. 1 guy that I would love to get in there with would be ‘The Korean Zombie,’” Hooker said. “I would love throw down with ‘The Zombie.’

“So I don’t know what the people were saying, that’s why I just put it out there, stepped on the scale, made the weight, and I feel like you just let the people decide. Whoever the people want to see me in there against will kind of convince the UFC. What everyone wants, everyone can get, but for me it would be head and shoulders ‘The Korean Zombie.’”



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