UFC 266 live: Dan Hooker v Nasrat Haqparast

UFC 266 live: Dan Hooker v Nasrat Haqparast

September 26, 2021

Live updates from UFC 266 featuring Kiwi Dan Hooker.

Dana White has laid down a challenge for Kiwi lightweight fighter Dan Hooker – “show the world who you are.”

Hooker, the UFC’s No 8-ranked lightweight, returns to the octagon on Sunday at UFC 266 in Las Vegas to face unranked power puncher Nasrat Haqparast – the only match-up he was able to find for the date.

Hooker was in an interesting and unfortunate position as he looked to find his next opponent. The 31-year-old had been informed the UFC would have a spot for him on the UFC 266 card, and he was able to acquire an MIQ voucher for soon after the September 26 date.

However, coming off losses to former title challengers Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler in his last two bouts, Hooker found himself slip back to the low end of the division’s top 10 and unable to find a highly ranked opponent.

It wasn’t without trying. Hooker constantly put the call out for an opponent on social media with little response, and the UFC matchmakers were having just as much trouble. But with an MIQ voucher already secured and not knowing when he might be in that fortunate position again, he was determined to head overseas to do his job – accepting a fight with Haqparast.

While not a ranked opponent, Haqparast is the next best thing – a well-rounded fighter with knockout power who has only lost once in his last six bouts.

But while Haqparast is a dangerous opponent, UFC president White has challenged Hooker to use the booking to full advantage.

“When you’re in the top 10 like Dan is, everybody’s dangerous, but you shouldn’t be worrying too much about an unranked opponent,” White told the Herald.

“It’s a pain in the ass because he’s number eight, so he wants to work his way back towards number one, but he’s got to fight a guy that could do more damage to his ranking than anything good.

“If he wins spectacularly, he’s supposed to. That’s what everybody feels, so it’s a tough position to be in, but not a horrible one either. He’s going to come out here, he’s going to get some work in and he’s going to get paid, so I guess that’s the mindset he should have coming into this fight.

“Don’t take the guy for granted. You train hard, you come in a use this fight as a way to really showcase yourself again and show the world who you are.”

White added that there were several factors involved in being unable to find Hooker a ranked opponent, from travel issues to fighters already being booked or simply being unavailable to fight.

“It’s all those things,” White said. “You could throw Covid in, you could throw visa issues in, you can throw personal problems in. It’s just a whole melting pot of bullshit that can stop a guy from getting a fight.

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