Dan Hooker Feels Winner of UFC on ESPN 12 Main Event Cements Themselves as “the Next Guy”

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You’ll be hard pressed to find a more fan-friendly main event than the fight topping UFC on ESPN 12 this Saturday. Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker is a fight that fans have looked forward to ever since it was announced, originally as the main event of UFC San Diego.

The California card was, of course, another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the fight itself remains on, rescheduled and relocated to the UFC Apex this weekend, the fifth of five consecutive events at the venue.

And Hooker (20-8), for one, is as excited as the rest of us when it comes to his pairing with Poirier. It’s a sentiment both fighters shared during Thursday’s media day.

“It’s very easy to get excited when you’re facing an opponent like Dustin Poirier. I know he’s going to come to fight, and he’s going to bring the exact same thing that I’m going to bring,” Hooker told Cageside Press during a virtual media scrum. “[We] both look to finish, and both look to put on a show.”

“I as well as the fans know why this is going to be a good one. Because we’ve never been in a boring fight our entire lives,” he continued. “I’m not expecting that to change come Saturday.”

Nor is anyone else, really. Which is why the Vegas headliner has fans salivating. But aside from an exciting fight, it’s also a key fight for the lightweight division. A weight class that has seen Justin Gaethje overcome Tony Ferguson to secure the next title shot. Not to mention the supposed retirement of Conor McGregor.

With a fair amount of movement in a short span of time, it feels like the winner of Poirier versus Hooker could slide right in to a title shot. Hooker, for his part, agrees.

“This is combat sports. The game can change so quickly, and I feel like the winner of this fight cements himself as the next guy, or the guy that’s going to step in should Khabib [Nurmagomedov] or [Justin Gaethje] get injured,” the New Zealand native said. “The guy that wins this fight is the guy that aligns himself to step in for the title shot.”

Of course, the current global climate is not the most ideal circumstances to be preparing for the fight of your life in. There’s a pandemic, after all, one which has hit America particularly hard. Hooker, however, has found the silver lining. Looking no further than a former opponent.

“You can look at other fighters capitalizing on this opportunity. You can look at Gilbert Burns,” suggested ‘The Hangman.’ Hooker defeated Burns back when the Brazilian still plied his trade at lightweight. Now, Burns is fighting for welterweight gold. “The guys that stay ready, the guys that stay committed, and the guys that want to fight are the ones getting fights and progressing their careers. So I feel like I’m in exactly the same position.”

And Hooker sees a similar path to gold for himself. “I’m here, I’m going to set myself up with a title shot because I can capitalize on the opportunity. Because I stayed motivated all through this pandemic, all through lockdown, through Fortis [MMA] getting shut. I stayed training, I stayed hungry, I stayed fit, and I stayed ready so I could make the most of this opportunity.”

After all, Hooker added, he can live with not being able to fight because, say, the UFC couldn’t secure him a visa. What he can’t live with, he stated, is the UFC “coming to me with the fight, saying ‘do you want to fight Dustin Poirier?’ and I can’t accept it because I took my foot off the gas, because of some kind of lockdown or quarantine. So I’m coming into this fight motivated and ready.”

Watch the full UFC on ESPN 12 media day scrum with Dan Hooker above!

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