Dan Hooker: Featherweight is ‘a division I can really thrive in’


Dan Hooker shocked the MMA community earlier this week when he posted a video standing on a scale that read 146 pounds. That’s a weight Hooker hasn’t hit since 2016 when he was a middle of the pack featherweight with a 3-3 UFC record. Then he moved to 155 and bam: he went 7-1 over his next eight fights.

But the COVID era hasn’t been too kind to Hooker. He’s gone 1-3 over his last four, and despite his losses all coming to beasts (Poirier, Chandler, and Mkahachev), the New Zealand fighter is looking to make some changes … one of which is a move back down to featherweight. In an interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour, “The Hangman” clarified that the cut wasn’t that bad at all.

“I made the weight!” he said with a laugh. “It wasn’t for me, I know I can make the weight. It was to try and convince a few people that needed convincing, like my coaches. My coaches weren’t that keen on me going back to 145, but that’s me stepping on a scale and making it pretty easy if I’m being honest.”

“From when I was in the past to where I am now, obviously the science and the people that are part of the UFC [Performance Institute] who’ve all been … it’s just been smooth sailing. It took me all of two weeks to get down and cut to that weight. So if I can do it in two weeks on holiday, you give me a fight, it’s a whole different story.”

“I’m not going to get too far into weights, but I’m at the exact same weight that I walk around at lightweight, so to make lightweight is a piece of piss,” he continued. “I can make lightweight tomorrow if I want to. I could go sit in the sauna and make lightweight this afternoon. To get down to lightweight I just diet for a week and then step on a scale and that’s me at lightweight. To get to featherweight, just diet down and do a proper cut, you know what I mean? And it’s something I haven’t had to do since I was back at featherweight. So it’s just kind of doing what everyone else is doing, that’s all it is.”

Hooker framed it as a competitive advantage that he hadn’t been taking advantage of. Add that in with all the COVID-19 travel restrictions and training restrictions and not having his coaches with him, and you can see why he feels like the deck’s been stacked against him.

“For one it’s just … it’s just an advantage that I haven’t been capitalizing on, to be honest,” he said. “Well, there’s a number of advantages that I haven’t been capitalizing on, and that’s just one of them. So it’s kinda moving forward and learning from the past, making adjustments for the future. And that’s just one of them. Getting back, working with my team, that travel opening up with the world. I’m excited for the future. I think that featherweight is the weight class that I can really thrive at. And it’s a weight class where I can capitalize on all my advantages.”

“But yeah on the same turn I get to get back to New Zealand and in the future I’ll be training and going into fights with a full camp. Travelling with my full coaching staff. And then competing at a weight class that I feel pretty content with and pretty comfortable with. So I’m pretty excited for the future.”

Cutting to featherweight isn’t a new thought that came about after losing to Islam Makhachev in October.

“I kinda floated the idea past Eugene at the start of the year and it was shut down pretty quickly,” Hooker said. “[Because of] the past when I used to make the weight. But it’s day and night, the advancements. The [UFC Performance Institute] wasn’t even a thing when I used to make featherweight. Now you get into fight week, the PI makes all your meals, dieticians are looking after you. The weight cuts are just general knowledge now.”

“How I used to do it back when I was fighting was a bit more of a guessing game. And let’s just say people that we now consider idiots used to be considered geniuses at the time. There was a lot of people now that we’re like ‘Why was he the #1 weight cut specialist in the world? That guy didn’t know what he’s talking about.’ Now the advancements and science of it is day and night.”

After moving up to lightweight, Hooker said he felt cloudy and drunk and just not mentally sharp at 145. So we understand why his coaches would be hesitant to have him move back down. Stepping on the scale and making weight is one thing. Performing in the cage is another. But if he wasn’t even really having to cut to make lightweight, well … the sad truth is everyone else at lightweight is definitely going through proper cuts. That’s the devious thing about the weight classes. If you’re not dropping 20+ pounds, you’re liable to get manhandled by someone who is.

What do you think, Maniacs? Hooker back at 145: good idea or grotesque idea?

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