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Dan Hooker poses for a photo in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign during UFC International Fight Week on July 3, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Dan Hooker Always Wants The Toughest Challenge

Lightweight Dan Hooker Hopes To Break Into The Top 10 With A Victory Over Jalin Turner At UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez

If you don’t follow Dan Hooker on social media, you’re in for a surprise when he steps into the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez.

Now with bleached blonde hair and a pair of new leg tattoos, Hooker brings a brand-new look to fight week. Since his victory over Claudio Puelles in November, Hooker’s continued to see vast improvements in his mixed martial arts skill set and felt a change in appearance was fitting to go along with his evolution as a fighter.

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“Just an impulsive decision,” Hooker said of his blonde hair. “Just changed things up a bit. I feel like internally I’ve made some big steps in my game and it’s a fresh start internally, so why not externalize that kind of thing. When you go back and you’re watching footage, you’ll see it and go, ‘Tattoo Dan, tattoo blonde Dan, new Dan, he gets it done.’”

“I can’t say too much thought went into [my tattoos]. I’ve just never had the time [to get them]. A broken hand, you get a couple weeks to yourself. A bit too impulsive, that’s all I really am.”

Dan Hooker of New Zealand prepares to fight Islam Makhachev of Russia in a lightweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Dan Hooker of New Zealand prepares to fight Islam Makhachev of Russia in a lightweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Most of Hooker’s progress in the gym has been made while focused on only one opponent, Jalin Turner. The two were scheduled to compete at UFC 285 in March, but Hooker suffered a broken hand that forced him out of the bout.

Turner decided to take on short-notice opponent Mateusz Gamrot, who won the bout via split decision. Since Turner lost the fight and kept his same position in the lightweight rankings, his original bout with Hooker was rescheduled to this Saturday at UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez.

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“I’m sick of looking at his face, I’m sick of watching film,” Hooker joked. “I’ve got a lot of respect for his skills. He’s a dangerous fighter; he gets a lot of finishes. That’s the [type of person] I want to be competing against.”

Dan Hooker | Best Moments
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Dan Hooker | Best Moments
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As Hooker mentioned, Turner is one of the most dangerous fighters in the lightweight division. Up until his loss to Gamrot, Turner had won five consecutive fights, all by finish in the first or second round, including a 45-second submission victory over Brad Riddell.

Not only does Turner have the skills to compete with anyone at 155 pounds, but his size has also been a difficult puzzle to solve for his opponents. Standing at 6-foot-3, Turner is one of the biggest fighters in the weight class.

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If there’s one person who’s capable of dealing with a size disadvantage, it’s Hooker. Training out of City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand, one of Hooker’s teammates is none other than 6-foot-4 middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

(L-R) Jack Della Maddalena, Dan Hooker, Alexander Volkanovski, Robert Whittaker, Shannon Ross and Jimmy Crute pose in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign during UFC International Fight Week on 7/3/23 in Las Vegas, NV (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
(L-R) Jack Della Maddalena, Dan Hooker, Alexander Volkanovski, Robert Whittaker, Shannon Ross and Jimmy Crute pose in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign during UFC International Fight Week on 7/3/23 in LV, NV (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

During his fight week interview with UFC.com, Hooker also referenced a bout early on in his career, when he accepted a short notice main event fight on the regional scene at heavyweight, where he competed at a near 90-pound weight disadvantage. Hooker won the bout via knockout in the second round.

While Hooker’s had inconsistent results inside the Octagon as of late, there’s no denying that he was one of the best lightweights in the entire world only a few years ago, and he believes that he’s on the cusp of reaching that mark once again.

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“[I’ll be] back in the mix,” Hooker said if he gets his hand raised against Turner this Saturday. “That’s why it’s a fight I wanted, a fight I wanted to rebook. It’s a guy ahead of me; a young, talented kid that’s in contention, with very close fights against guys in the Top 10, so that’s the people I want to compete against to get me back in the mix. I’m not here to just put on fun fights and get a paycheck. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to contend. I’m here to be a part of the upper echelon and fight for the belt.”

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UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!