Dan Hooker has always been realistic in his approach to fighting; it's all about working towards the bigger picture of setting up his future.
The Kiwi UFC star has paved the way for New Zealand mixed martial arts on the biggest stage in the sport, continuing the work done by Mark Hunt and James Te Huna before him.
It's a stage viewed with rose-tinted glasses by many of those aspiring to reach it, but Hooker wants to change that outlook.
"When you're not in the UFC, you think getting into the UFC is everything," he says. "Once you are in the UFC you're far, far from finished; you're kind of just starting the journey of a fighter."
The 29-year-old knows a thing or two about the journey of a fighter, with his professional career now spanning a decade, and counting.
Hooker's start with the UFC came in 2014, when the promotion made its debut in Auckland. At the time, he held a 10-4 record and was the reigning Australian Fighting Championship lightweight champion. Making his octagon debut in the featherweight division (145lbs/67.7kg) against Englishman Ian Entwistle, the Kiwi got the job done in just 3min34sec.
"I just stood up and said if you're coming to Auckland, I'm the best guy; I'm the best Kiwi fighter out there and if you're coming to my city, if you're coming to my country you need to put me on the card.
"I've definitely earned my spot on the roster. The UFC pay me my money because they know I'll go out there and fight for it."
He's now viewed as the captain of New Zealand's stable of UFC fighters, which includes his City Kickboxing teammates Kai Kara-France, Shane Young and Israel Adesanya – the UFC's interim middleweight champion, as well as Hamilton-based Luke Jumeau. New Zealand is also represented in the Professional Fighters' League through Genah Fabian and Sigi Pesaleli, while Ev Ting continues to add to his resume in Singapore-based promotion One Championship.
With more and more fighters now making their way onto the world stage in the various promotions, Hooker says it's important not to get lost in the present.
"It's good to see the other guys just coming on to the scene. They're in an opportunity now where they have to make a name for themselves and build the way up.
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"[But] you have to think about the bigger picture as a young fighter, you have to think about not what you're going to do in the next year or two years, you have to think 10, 15 years.
"This is a career at the end of the day. A career's not one or two years. It's your career – once you finish you want to be set up for life, you don't want to go back and have to start again somewhere else. I feel like a lot of these young fighters need to start thinking about it as the bigger picture, as a career."
Hooker, who returned to fighting at lightweight (155lbs/70.3kg) in 2017, will make his 12th appearance in the UFC octagon on Sunday (NZ time) when he takes on No15 ranked James Vick in San Antonio, Texas.
In five years with the UFC, he holds a 7-4 record with only three of his bouts going the full three rounds – all of which he lost on the judges' scorecards.
Dan 'the Hangman' Hooker v James 'the Texicutioner' Vick
Three-round lightweight (70kg) bout
UFC San Antonio, Sunday, July 21 (NZ time)
Tale of the tape