'Nau Mai': Hooker welcomes former Bellator champ Chandler to the UFC

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

For his first fight of the new year, Dan 'The Hangman' Hooker will be making the trip to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi as he looks to stop a debuting former Bellator world champion in Michael Chandler.

Not only will this fight be in a UFC pay-per-view but it will also serve as the co-main event for UFC 257, on January 24 [4pm NZ time], alongside the rematch between Dustin Poirier and 'The Notorious' Connor McGregor.

Michael Chandler has been in talks with the UFC for months over who his debut match would be up against. Former lightweight interim champion Tony Ferguson was supposed to be that person, but it never came to fruition.

Instead, the man he will step into the octagon with none other than Ngāti Maniapoto's Dan Hooker. 

'The Hangman' had a balanced year in 2020, having tasted victory and defeat. His win came about when he main-evented the raucous hometown UFC Fight Night: Auckland event and took a split decision over Paul 'The Irish Dragon' Felder.  



Hooker's loss came from fellow main-eventer Dustin Poirier in what has been nominated as a fight of the year contender. It was Hooker's first bout as a top 5 ranked fighter, back in June last year.



With the past behind him, Hooker is ready to make another statement in the already stacked lightweight division as he plans to give Chandler a loss for his debut. With Conor McGregor headlining, it will bring some major exposure to Hooker, as well as some Bellator MMA fans to get behind Chandler, or Hooker as well.

In a recent interview with ESPN MMA, Chandler has been taking notice of his opponent. "He's tough everywhere, he's dangerous everywhere, he has power in his hands, he has power in his kicks.

"Aside from his loss to Poirier, he still looked phenomenal.

"Maybe it's in my head. Maybe that's me trying to stay sharp, knowing that I've got a very very tough test ahead of me."

Hooker is the first of the City Kickboxing boys to don the gloves. Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will look to become a two-division champion when he fights light-heavyweight title-holder Jan Blachowicz on March 7 [NZ time]. Kai Don't Blink" Kara France has signed a new four-fight contract, while newcomer and former King In The Ring Carlos Ulberg will be looking to make his official debut in the octagon later this year. 

And with Khabib Nurmagomedov retiring and vacating the title, it's now anybody's race to be the king of the lightweights.