Untangling the Hangman

Untangling the Hangman

Daniel Hooker is a New Zealand mixed martial artist competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Daniel Hooker is a New Zealand mixed martial artist competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Interview with Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker by New Zealand Fighter

New Zealand fighter Dan Hooker’s next fight is against Japanese veteran Hatsu Hioki at UFC Fight Night 65 in Adelaide in May. The Adelaide event will be headlined by Kiwi heavyweight, Mark Hunt, who will meet American, Stipe Miocic. Also on the cards are fellow Kiwis, Dylan Andrews vs. Brad Scott, and Robert Whittaker vs. Brad Tavares.

Currently Dan Hooker is training in Vietnam; I was lucky to get an interview about his upcoming fight, being a New Zealand fighter, and his fan base.  

Q: The Strikeforce gym, your training camp; explain how they have made you into the fighter you are today. How has it been as a New Zealand fighter finding fights here in New Zealand, how do you see the potential of growing MMA in New Zealand given UFC in NZ was such a success.

Dan Hooker vs Hatsu Hioki

A: Strikeforce is my home gym in New Zealand under Aaron Boyes and Karl Webber. Great team of fighters, anyone that walks through those doors in Auckland or Christchurch knows that we breed them tough. My original coach was BJJ black belt John Olesen who had the patience to train me from scratch and lead me to a pro national championship in less than a year of training.

I think the trouble is people wait for the perfect time or the perfect fight to appear which doesn’t exist. For the sport to grow and capitalize on a local level they need bodies and fighters putting their careers first and actively competing. Then all the other aspects fall into place, shows need fighters, spectators need fights. The market is there, it just needs the product.

Q: Talk briefly about your experience in Asia; fighting for Legends FC, and the potential for Asian fighters to grow, as you have shared your interest in expanding MMA over there too.

A: NZ has always had a number of local champions competing or training in Asia. It’s just such a massive market and there is so much opportunity for NZ fighters to further their careers in this part of the world. More people equals more shows, money, exposure etc. If I can open doors for future Kiwi fighters then I will have accomplished what I set out to achieve in this part of the world.

Q: You went to Vietnam for your training camp to get out of your comfort zone.  How has it been adjusting to this kind of training compared to New Zealand?

A: As far as getting out of your comfort zone the whole process of fight preparation is uncomfortable, the diet, training, the pressure. The key is to find comfort in the uncomfortable. If you’re going through your whole camp with no stress or anxiety then maybe you haven’t done everything you could have to succeed.

Vietnam’s climate is very similar to Thailand; Coach Barry has a saying “you can’t cook with cold grease”. This is just another aspect of controlling your mind under pressure. If it’s 35 degrees out and you’re losing your cool then what happens under that same pressure in the fight? If you’re constantly uncomfortable and under pressure in training then come fight night nothing really changes.

Q: What is your schedule in terms of your fight camp?  For example how long are you planning to be in Vietnam for, are you coming back to New Zealand to train before you go and fight in Australia?

A: I’ll be training out of the Saigon Sports Club in Vietnam for the rest of the year. There are a number of other Kiwi fighters training here so we’re being strongly represented over at SSC. My schedule is three trainings a day 6 days a week plus film study classes and homework. We’re going the extra mile to leave no stone unturned.

Q: How are you preparing for Hioki’s style? Do you see yourself keeping it on the feet, or are you planning on out grappling him on the ground? Will you eat some punches to give some back, and try to overwhelm your opponent like the phone both style fight you had with Blanco? Or will you stick and move more this time?

We have a great team in Vietnam with a black belt BJJ coach, a Bulgarian wrestling champion and an MMA veteran. So I’m doing a lot of grappling to prepare for him on the ground. Pressure bursts pipes and my cardio is always top notch. I’ll be looking to press the action and think this will pay dividend come fight night.

Q: Your last fight has probably gained you not only more Japanese fans, but a lot more global fans too. Talk a bit about your fans and how they have helped you get to where you are now? Do you see New Zealand fans any different to the other fans around the world?

“The fans are 90% of the opportunity” – Dan The Hangman Hooker

A: All I was getting at with that quote was that if I ask for something from the UFC brass then it might happen, but if I have a couple thousand people asking then there is a much higher percentage I’ll get what I'm after. Social media is a great tool to connect with fans and promoters. I would encourage all fighters to get active on twitter and Facebook to grow their name and gain free exposure. Just make sure you’re spending more time in the gym than online and you should be ok.

NZ fans are great and I'm lucky to have such strong support from back home. Yeah they’re different because they have my back and want me to do well and succeed in my career.

Dan Hooker UFC Auckland

Q: I have remembered one of the UFC commentators said that you have fought in Heavyweight all the way down to Featherweight. You had made 90kg of muscles in Thailand, but now you walk around roughly 80kg, you have to weight cut to 66kg a day before fight night. What was the reason for going down to featherweight?

A: Weight cutting is just part of the process of fighting. I cut weight purely to level the playing field. But besides all of that I can make FW quite comfortably so will continue to pursue it as my weight class. I didn’t fight at heavyweight, I fought a heavyweight, it was 128kg Mark “the tank” Creedy and it was one heck of a war, I would have been 83kg at the time, it was a back and forth battle which I managed to finish with a soccer kick.

I’d just like to shout out to Strikeforce Gym, Saigon Sports Club, NZ Boxer and Copious for all their support, Cheers.

Thanks for reading; make sure to watch and support Dan and the rest of the Kiwis at UFC Fight Night 65 in Adelaide in May 2015.

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