UFC San Antonio: Dan Hooker Happy to Continue Accepting Fights Nobody Wants

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We caught up with Dan Hooker the day before his main card bout against James Vick at UFC San Antonio.

San Antonio, TX — Dan Hooker is part of one of the most interesting matchups of UFC San Antonio, as he’ll be taking on fellow lanky lightweight James Vick. He’ll be looking to bounce back from a tough loss top-tier striker Edson Barboza.

“The Hangman” is one of the better, more ominous nicknames in mixed martial arts. How it came about is relatively simple. “I kept catching a few necks, and getting pretty quick submissions,” Hooker explained. “So yeah, one of my coaches just kind of threw it out there. And it’s one of those things, it stuck.” Plus, Hooker noted, “it’s hard to rhyme something with Hooker.”

As exciting as a knockout can be, Hooker can appreciate “a nice, clean, well set-up, well-timed choke,” which he said “is like a beautiful way to finish. A bit under-respected. People are like ‘aw that’s unfortunate.’ No, everyone got out, no one got hurt.”

Heading into UFC San Antonio, Hooker had one confession to make: “I didn’t know whereabouts [San Antonio] was.” However, after being asked “four times if we speak English in New Zealand,” he has probably earned a break.

If you want to play up the stereotype, though, yes, Dan Hooker is a rugby fan. “Yeah, it comes with the territory. As a New Zealander, you just support the All-Blacks. It’s just the national sport.”

Hooker played in his youth, “mainly rugby league growing up.” With his speed, it’s no surprise that “I was on the wing, played full-back,” he said.

However, his athletic career went in a different direction, one that has brought him to UFC San Antonio, and James Vick. Vick has lost two straight, to Justin Gaethje and Paul Felder. But he remains a dangerous fighter in the lightweight division, once that could help Hooker rebound after his own loss to Edson Barboza.

“That’s what I kind of seen, as soon as I saw his name: this puts me back in the mix,” Hooker told us. “When James was ranked number 10, there was a lot of guys avoiding fights with him, and that’s for a reason, and that’s because he’s a dangerous guy.” That’s a situation Hooker has been in before, faced with a dangerous guy when others weren’t interested. “That’s why I jumped from being ranked out of 14, 15 to getting Barboza, who was 5, is because all those guys in between, they don’t want to take the fight.” And while Hooker came up short against Barboza, even in a loss, his stock rose. “So they seem to, UFC matches me up with a dangerous guy. I’ve never turned down a fight, they know that.”

It’s really no surprise that fighters are avoiding Vick, really. Or Hooker himself. “That kind of happens when you knock people out, they tend to avoid you. It’s not surprising.”

Catch Dan Hooker’s next tough fight, a battle with James Vick on the main card of UFC San Antonio tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

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