Dan Hooker: ‘This is a make-or-break fight for Michael Chandler’ if he loses ‘all of that hype is gone’

Dan Hooker | Esther Lin, MMA FightingWhen former Bellator champion Michael Chandler signed with the UFC, he immediately caught the attention of many of top-ranked lightweights, including his upcoming opponent, Dan Hooker. Truth be told, Hooker wasn’t very familiar with Chandler’s body of work. But he definitely took notice when the UFC named him as the backup fighter to serve as a potential replacement for the UFC 254 main event between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. “I knew the UFC had signed him, and I can’t say I cared that much until they had him as the backup for the title fight,” Hooker said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Stepping in to back up Khabib-Gaethje. That’s when I said, if the UFC is going to put that much stock in him and he doesn’t get to fight here, let me welcome him to the UFC. “They’re putting him as a title contender. They’re putting him as a potential title challenger, then I want that spot. I want to take that hype away from him.” Of course, that level of attention also comes with a lot of expectations. Chandler may be stepping into his first fight with the UFC, but he’s also serving as the co-main event on what is expected to be one of the biggest cards of the year with the return of Conor McGregor. As if that wasn’t enough, UFC President Dana White revealed this past Saturday that reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is keeping an eye on the main and co-main events at UFC 257 to see if someone impresses him enough to potentially draw him out of retirement. Add to that, Chandler is facing the perception that he’s just now stepping up to the big leagues, as if his experience in Bellator didn’t match the same level of competition in the UFC. “The UFC, they’re putting him in a make-or-break position,” Hooker said. “He loses this fight against me, that’s all of that hype gone. I don’t think he’s at the stage of his career where he’s going to build himself up, going back in the UFC fighting unranked fighters, working his way back up the ladder. This is a make-or-break fight for Michael Chandler. “For me, I can just fall back on that experience. I’ve spent an hour in the cage last year. I still have that very fresh in my mind. I’m lucky that I can draw on that experience. If he can drag me into a war, he can drag me into a war but that’s something I’m definitely prepared for.” While Hooker volunteered to welcome Chandler to the UFC, it took some time and patience before the promotion actually came through with an offer. At that point, the New Zealand native had to get started on his homework. Because outside of some highlights, he wasn’t actually all that familiar with Chandler’s body of work. “I can honestly say when I first said I’d fight him, I had never watched a complete fight,” Hooker said. “But as soon as the UFC approached me about the matchup, my coaches started watching, I started watching and I take a good look into his career, top to bottom. You realize real quick he’s been competing at the top of the Bellator division. He’s been fighting world class opponents very early on. I think since his third fight with Bellator. So he’s had plenty of big fights on the big stage, fighting the best guys in the world. “So he’s been competing at a high level for an incredibly long period of time. That’s something I definitely respect. I definitely respect his achievements outside the UFC.” During his years as the face of Bellator MMA, Chandler was a multi-time lightweight champion while racking up a number of impressive finishes. Just before signing with the UFC, he demolished former champion Benson Henderson via first-round knockout to propel him into free agency. His signature style typically meant overwhelming the opposition with an aggressive game plan that usually involved a heavy-handed approach with knockout power thrown behind every punch. In addition to that, Chandler also brought an impressive background in wrestling, where he was an NCAA All-American at the University of Missouri, the same school that has produced fighters such as Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren. Despite his pedigree, Chandler doesn’t depend on his wrestling as often as he relies on his knockout power. But Hooker believes that strategy will change come Saturday at UFC 257. “Oh, he gonna shoot,” Hooker said with a laugh. “Oh, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s going to try to take me down. That’s something that I know with full certainty, I know for a fact that he don’t want to stand with me. He doesn’t want to stand in front of me and exchange punches. “I feel like I would put him through the meat grinder if he wanted to stand and trade strikes with me. He’ll be shooting. Let’s just say I guarantee. I’ll put a million dollars on he shoots first.” When it comes to his own game plan, Hooker isn’t trying to keep anything a secret. He has a good idea what Chandler is going to do, and he fully expects the former Bellator champion to have him scouted just as well. At that po

Dan Hooker: ‘This is a make-or-break fight for Michael Chandler’ if he loses ‘all of that hype is gone’
Dan Hooker | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When former Bellator champion Michael Chandler signed with the UFC, he immediately caught the attention of many of top-ranked lightweights, including his upcoming opponent, Dan Hooker.

Truth be told, Hooker wasn’t very familiar with Chandler’s body of work. But he definitely took notice when the UFC named him as the backup fighter to serve as a potential replacement for the UFC 254 main event between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.

“I knew the UFC had signed him, and I can’t say I cared that much until they had him as the backup for the title fight,” Hooker said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Stepping in to back up Khabib-Gaethje. That’s when I said, if the UFC is going to put that much stock in him and he doesn’t get to fight here, let me welcome him to the UFC.

“They’re putting him as a title contender. They’re putting him as a potential title challenger, then I want that spot. I want to take that hype away from him.”

Of course, that level of attention also comes with a lot of expectations.

Chandler may be stepping into his first fight with the UFC, but he’s also serving as the co-main event on what is expected to be one of the biggest cards of the year with the return of Conor McGregor. As if that wasn’t enough, UFC President Dana White revealed this past Saturday that reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is keeping an eye on the main and co-main events at UFC 257 to see if someone impresses him enough to potentially draw him out of retirement.

Add to that, Chandler is facing the perception that he’s just now stepping up to the big leagues, as if his experience in Bellator didn’t match the same level of competition in the UFC.

“The UFC, they’re putting him in a make-or-break position,” Hooker said. “He loses this fight against me, that’s all of that hype gone. I don’t think he’s at the stage of his career where he’s going to build himself up, going back in the UFC fighting unranked fighters, working his way back up the ladder. This is a make-or-break fight for Michael Chandler.

“For me, I can just fall back on that experience. I’ve spent an hour in the cage last year. I still have that very fresh in my mind. I’m lucky that I can draw on that experience. If he can drag me into a war, he can drag me into a war but that’s something I’m definitely prepared for.”

While Hooker volunteered to welcome Chandler to the UFC, it took some time and patience before the promotion actually came through with an offer.

At that point, the New Zealand native had to get started on his homework. Because outside of some highlights, he wasn’t actually all that familiar with Chandler’s body of work.

“I can honestly say when I first said I’d fight him, I had never watched a complete fight,” Hooker said. “But as soon as the UFC approached me about the matchup, my coaches started watching, I started watching and I take a good look into his career, top to bottom. You realize real quick he’s been competing at the top of the Bellator division. He’s been fighting world class opponents very early on. I think since his third fight with Bellator. So he’s had plenty of big fights on the big stage, fighting the best guys in the world.

“So he’s been competing at a high level for an incredibly long period of time. That’s something I definitely respect. I definitely respect his achievements outside the UFC.”

During his years as the face of Bellator MMA, Chandler was a multi-time lightweight champion while racking up a number of impressive finishes. Just before signing with the UFC, he demolished former champion Benson Henderson via first-round knockout to propel him into free agency.

His signature style typically meant overwhelming the opposition with an aggressive game plan that usually involved a heavy-handed approach with knockout power thrown behind every punch. In addition to that, Chandler also brought an impressive background in wrestling, where he was an NCAA All-American at the University of Missouri, the same school that has produced fighters such as Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren.

Despite his pedigree, Chandler doesn’t depend on his wrestling as often as he relies on his knockout power. But Hooker believes that strategy will change come Saturday at UFC 257.

“Oh, he gonna shoot,” Hooker said with a laugh. “Oh, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s going to try to take me down. That’s something that I know with full certainty, I know for a fact that he don’t want to stand with me. He doesn’t want to stand in front of me and exchange punches.

“I feel like I would put him through the meat grinder if he wanted to stand and trade strikes with me. He’ll be shooting. Let’s just say I guarantee. I’ll put a million dollars on he shoots first.”

When it comes to his own game plan, Hooker isn’t trying to keep anything a secret. He has a good idea what Chandler is going to do, and he fully expects the former Bellator champion to have him scouted just as well. At that point it just comes down to who is the better fighter.

“It’s not up for debate,” Hooker said when breaking down game plans. “He needs to close the distance, I need to keep it long. We both know exactly what we need to do. It comes down to who can implement it and who can really get their way.

“I just feel like I have the tools to keep a fighter like that at range. He’s game. He comes to fight. He’s an explosive guy, but I feel like skill for skill, there’s too much there for my side.”

Source : MMA Fighting More