The adage that patience is a virtue is an easy one to shrug off, but for Kiwi UFC star Dan Hooker, booking his next bout has been well worth the wait.
The Herald can confirm Hooker will square off against No 6 ranked lightweight Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night in Milwaukee on December 16.
"This is the fight I wanted. He is the guy in the top 10 that the other guys in the top 10 don't want a bar of," Hooker told the Herald.
Since he last stepped inside the octagon at UFC 226 in July, Hooker, the No 14 ranked lightweight, has been looking for a dangerous fight. He was hoping for a quick turnaround, looking to fight twice more this year. He was ready to go against any opponent — ranked or not — but no one stepped up.
"I would fight anyone unranked as well. If they came and said 'I'm the guy, I can beat Dan Hooker' then congratulations, you got the fight. But no one stepped up; no one said it."
Time ran out on booking two fights before year's end, so he turned his attention to securing one big name.
The Kiwi called out just about every other ranked fighter in his division, but there was one in particular he wanted a date with — and Barboza obliged, with the fight contract finalised at the weekend.
"I chased him because I believe ... he's the toughest fight. I didn't ask for Edson Barboza because I feel like that's an easy way to get to the top, I think he's going to bring a fight.
"I want a real test ... and I feel like Edson Barboza is the man for the job."
Since making the step up to lightweight from featherweight, the 28-year-old Hooker is yet to be beaten with four stoppages to his name in as many bouts. Barboza, who holds a 19-6-0 record (13-6-0 UFC), will be the Kiwi's first ranked opponent.
Hooker admitted he had a hunch that he was going to get his wish of a bout against the 32-year-old Brazilian. In recent months, most of the top ranked lightweight fighters have booked their next bouts — and no one else was mentioning Barboza's name. The Brazilian has lost his past two matches, against current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and No 5 ranked Kevin Lee.
"They were tough stylistic match ups, but the guy's a killer," Hooker said. "He's going to be a very tough matchup. It's going to be a very good striking fight."
Booking a date with Barboza in Milwaukee means Hooker will not join Kai Kara-France on the card at UFC Fight Night in Adelaide. Signing on for the bout accounted for the last fight on Hooker's contract, and he has re-signed with the UFC on a six-fight deal.