There are two requirements to making it in the UFC; winning fights, and playing the numbers game.

With the most dangerous fighters the promotion has to offer sitting high in the division rankings, it's a long way up for the new breed wanting to take on the best.

The perception is that ranked fighters are too good for those outside the top 15 and therefore won't give any thought to taking a fight with one.

"It's kind of the UFC marketing machine that gets people so afraid of them," Kiwi lightweight Dan Hooker tells the Herald.


"They pump them up and hype them up and show you like a 20 second clip of them knocking guys out and you think 'oh man, this guy's invincible'.

"They're not a fair representation, but you've got to play the game.

Hooker has been in the UFC for more than four years and has been unstoppable since making the move from featherweight to lightweight in mid-2017. He's long been asking for a top-tier opponent, but it wasn't until he landed in the top 15 himself that he was granted the opportunity.

"I don't have these guys on a pedestal," Hooker says of the division's top-ranked fighters.

"I know everyone has weaknesses, I know everyone's human. I've been in the gym with world champions, I know they have bad days, I know they get submitted, I know they get dropped and get knocked out, so it's 50-50…it's an even playing field."

Next Sunday (NZ time), Hooker will get his wish of a ranked opponent when he meets 32-year-old Brazilian Edson Barboza, the No.5 lightweight, at Fight Night Milwaukee.

The bout will be Hooker's first since becoming a father for the first time, with him and wife Isabella welcoming a daughter into the world last month. While many athletes talk about the motivation boost in their sporting arena after becoming a parent, Hooker says it affects him in a slightly different way.

"I feel like it adds purpose to it, like I have more purpose to fighting; more reason, more justification for it, but to be honest, fighting's in my bones – this comes very easy to me.


"It's a very natural thing for me to just get in there and fight…I don't have to motivate myself for a fist-fight – that's just something I enjoy doing."

If he's looking for a fist-fight, Barboza will surely be happy to give him one. The Brazilian, who holds a 19-5 professional record with 11 wins by knockout, is a well-documented striker with a knack for avoiding takedowns.

But while Barboza's striking is elite, Hooker knows his war chest runs much deeper than the Brazilian's.

"Let's just talk facts – I have more tools, I'm a more versatile fighter.

"He's extremely good at what he does," Hooker says, "but he's kind of stuck in his ways and he's set for that path, so I feel like my advantage is in my versatility.

"I am good everywhere; I can pick and choose the tools on the day, or even adjust during the fight. I'm far more versatile than him and that's not just me grabbing something out of thin air; that is an undeniable truth."