Dan Hooker books UFC 243 bout with Al Iaquinta after KO call-out

MMA


Ask and thou shalt receive.

That’s certainly the case for New Zealand lightweight Dan Hooker who has been granted exactly what he was after: A showdown with the No. 6 ranked contender Al Iaquinta at UFC 243.

Hooker vs. Iaquinta is the latest piece of the 243 puzzle set down for Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, on Oct. 6th [AEST], a card which is being headlined by the hugely-anticipated middleweight title fight between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya.

Hooker is a teammate of Adesanya’s at Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym so he was naturally keen to throw down on the same card at an event that promises to be the biggest in Australasian MMA history.

But Hooker wasn’t always confident it would come against Iaquinta, whom he had called out directly after the devastating knockout of James Vick in San Antonio last month.

“It’s pretty cool, I don’t generally get what I ask for,” Hooker told ESPN. “I’m pretty stoked about that; it’s something that I wasn’t really expecting, to get him, to get the opponent I wanted, get the guy I asked for. But I’ll take that, I’ll take it with two hands and I’ll run with it.”

Hooker’s surprise is understandable given Iaquinta is ranked a full eight spots above him on the UFC ratings, though the 32-year-old American is coming off a loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in May.

Hooker is planning to go in and attack Iaquinta, an approach he feels resonates with his American opponent and one of the reasons why he agreed to “get on the plane” and come down to Melbourne – just as the Kiwi had requested – from Texas.

“It’s pretty unusual that you can get a fighter ranked that high above you to fight,” Hooker said. “He’s obviously seen something [in me]; he’s seen an exciting match-up, a real crowd-pleasing match-up and that’s the same thing that I see this fight as going to be.

“I’m not going in there to lean on him for three rounds or dance around him for three rounds, I’m going to get in there and sling some leather his way and I’m sure he wants to do the same thing back. So it’s an exciting fight for me, an exciting fight for the fans and I cannot wait.”

A brutal left hand saw Hooker emerge victorious over Vick in his last outing inside the Octagon, a triumph that earned him a third $50,000 bonus from the UFC. He’s still waiting on that payment to lob but a gift for the wife will be at the top of the list when it does.

A proponent of the “happy wife, happy life” mantra, Hooker feels as though his career is tracking in a similarly positive direction.

“I’m getting there, I’m getting there; I definitely have an end goal of my game and my style and where I see myself as a fighter, and what I see myself developing into,” Hooker said when asked whether he was entering the prime of his MMA career.

“But I still have a long way to go and a lot to work on, and I think that’s just the sport. As soon as you feel like you’ve got it you don’t got it, and someone’s going to take you out. So I’m going to stay humble, stay focused, keep developing every aspect of my game and [having] that mindset, that mentality, is where I do my best work.”

With Iaquinta locked in, Hooker can now set his sights alongside Adesanya in making UFC 243 a day to remember for not just New Zealand MMA but New Zealand sport on the whole.

“I just feel like I’m the hungriest I’ve ever been in my career,” he said. “It’s going to take a very dangerous man to stop me. I feel good now and generally with all the hard work and training, that’s where I get my confidence from as a fighter.

“And where I am now, I already feel really confident in own my ability, confident in my own fitness, so I only see that growing and lifting leading into the fight.”



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