Hooker wants to make a statement in first fight of 2023
Auckland MMA fighter Dan Hooker continues his bid for an elusive UFC title when he returns from injury this weekend.
It will be his first fight of 2023 after withdrawing from UFC 285 with a hand injury.
The number 12 ranked lightweight in he UFC will take on American Jalin Turner, ranked one spot above him at 11.
Speaking on the Freestylebender podcast, Hooker (22-12), said he is looking to make a statement this Sunday.
"This is a fight that puts me back in the mix. This is not anyone unranked or someone coming up, I feel like this fight's like a true tipping point. It's time to go out there and prove that I belong in there with the best guys."
Turner has a high finishing rate with all 13 of his professional wins coming by knockout or submission.
"Turner is one of the best.. I want to fight him because he's one of the very best fighters and he has a lot of fighters turning down when they see his name on a contract. So that makes me excited to fight someone in the top 10. To be potentially back in the mix and to put myself a couple of fights away from the title is exactly why I want to have this fight."
After an ill-fated move to featherweight, Hooker rebounded at UFC 281 in November against Claudio Puelles.
Regarded as one of the most exciting strikers in the sport, Hooker's stand up was largely nullified by Puelles who was very reluctant to trade with the Hangman on the feet.
After nine frustrating minutes, Hooker eventually found the sternum with a front kick and crumbled his opponent for a second round TKO.
Turner meanwhile saw his five fight winning streak ended in March as he lost by decision to Poland's Mateusz Gamrot.
However, Hooker disagrees with the scorecards.
"In my eyes and in my opinion, Turner won that fight."
The two were set to face off in March before Hooker pulled out due to a broken hand.
"(Without management's advice) I probably would have done some more dumb s***, I probably would've rushed things and taken a fight that I shouldn't have when my hand wasn't healed."
Turner is a dangerous prospect for Hooker.
"I'm not even part of how the fights get put together. You just give me the name.
"My manager is like, 'well, who do you want to fight?' I'm like, 'I will fight anyone! I will punch any of them. I don't care.'"
He maintains his reputation as a fighter who will take on anyone, anytime which has endeared him to the fan base.
"They are not the people winning titles, some of the biggest names in the sport are not the guys that will fight anyone, like how many of us are still around?
Hooker may face a long road to a title shot in a jam packed lightweight division but still believes he can capture UFC gold.
"I have the potential to win a world title. If I don't think that, what's the what's the point of even doing it?"