Hangman and Haqparast en route for cage showdown at UFC 266

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

In the past week, both Ngāti Maniapoto UFC fighter Dan "The Hangman" Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast ran into visa problems to get into the United States.

And with both men cutting the time really fine, they are en route, visas approved, to Las Vegas for their lightweight scrap at UFC 266 this Saturday night. [Sunday afternoon, NZ time]

It's a story that couldn't be scripted.

Despite numerous phone calls and emails to the US embassy, Hooker finally contacted the embassy on social media as he was unable to get an appointment at the embassy to secure his work visa and passport returned due to Auckland's Alert Level 4 lockdown.

 Hooker, who has previously fought in the US multiple times, had his documentation ready to go but it needed to be processed and, along with his passport, returned to him.

It wasn't until this Monday that Hooker's "last resort" was answered, approving his visa so he could fly to the US on Thursday evening.

Back in mid-September, Nasrat Haqparast posted a tribute to his mother on Instagram. She had died just weeks before his scheduled bout with 'The Hangman.'

Even as his opponent, Hooker showed massive respect and expressed his condolences to Haqprast on the post, saying: "Thoughts are with you and your whānau at this time brother."

Then, when news of Hooker's visa problems being solved were shared, the same visa issues occurred to Haqparast. Having been in Germany where his mother lived, Haqparast awaited his visa approval and passport return from the US consulate in Frankfurt.

The visa approval wasn't even a day old, having only been approved yesterday, as shown in Nasrat's tweet below.

Their upcoming bout is the second time for Hooker to face an unranked fighter since being in the top 10 and a first for Nasrat to fight a ranked opponent in his UFC career. Hooker hasn't fought since losing to former Bellator fighter Michael Chandler via first-round KO in January earlier this year.

But this is a fight that Hooker asked the world for, determined to be on the UFC 266 fight card. and Nasrat put his hand up in response.

City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman is also with Hooker for this fight, as he is also cornerman for featherweight champion and City Kickboxing teammate Alex Volkanovski who defends the belt in the main event against Brian Ortega.

 With weigh-ins and their first face-off just mere hours away, who takes the victory in this story? Find out on the UFC 266 Prelims on ESPN, starting on Sunday, 1pm NZ time.