The fight game goes in funny cycles; when it rains it pours, but when the rain dries up it can become a lonely, barren plain.
Kiwi UFC star Dan Hooker has walked the plain for the best part of six months. Now, finally, the rains have started up again.
The Herald can confirm Hooker will make his return to the octagon on July 21 (NZ time) when he meets the UFC's No.15-ranked lightweight James Vick in San Antonio. With both fighters coming in on the back of losses, the bout provides the opportunity for both fighters to reassert themselves in the conversation with the top lightweights in the company.
"They keep just giving me the guys no one wants to fight," Hooker tells the Herald.
"I'll take anyone, but he's tough. People have a lot of respect for him and I still want to fight the toughest guys."
The 13-3 Vick will go into the bout after back to back losses; being knocked out at the hands of Justin Gaethje before losing on the scorecards against Paul Felder. For the 18-8 Hooker, it will be his first bout since he was stopped by Edson Barboza in December last year, during which he sustained a broken orbital bone and concussion.
"That was a s*** performance," Hooker says. "I'm not proud of that performance, but that's not a fight I would take back.
"It's just the fight game, man. This is something I've been doing for a very long time; it's the way I've been making money for most of my adult life so this is not new to me. That's not going to deter me one bit."
Because of his injuries, Hooker was unable to fight until he was medically cleared so focused on coaching and training, biding his time until he was signed off.
Since he's been cleared, Hooker has been calling out anyone and everyone to get a fight, and was finally offered a spot on the card at UFC 240 in Edmonton on the last weekend of July against a fighter to be named later. Instead, the UFC came back to him with the offer to fight Vick in his home State a week earlier.
"I was just harassing (the matchmakers) for a fight," he says.
Hooker won over a number of UFC fans in his fight against Barboza, despite not having his greatest performance, because he refused to quit. Despite being bludgeoned by the Brazilian through the opening two rounds, Hooker came back for more only to be felled by a vicious liver shot late in the third and final round.
"That's just who I am as a fighter – when things get tough, I don't pack up and go home, I'm going to be in it until the very end," Hooker says. "That's something my coaches on the night know, that's why the let the fight play out – because I can turn a fight in a split second, I can finish guys very quickly. Give me a 0.01 per cent chance, I'm going to hang in there until the fight's finished.
"That ain't the first ass whooping I've had in my life. I've had more ass whoopings than you've had hot dinners – let's just put it that way. I don't even feel like that's the worst one I've ever had, that's just the first one most fans have seen.
"It's a high risk, high reward sport; that's how I like it. I'd rather play for all the chips – go all in every time. You don't pick this profession because you like to play things safe, you have to go in there and back yourself. The chips fall where they may."