After convincingly beating Al Iaquinta in the co-main event of UFC 243 in Melbourne, Dan Hooker wasted no time in calling his next shot.
"Dustin Poirier, I'm going to smash your face in. Meet me in New Zealand in 2020. I'm going to end you."
While he might not get the former interim UFC lightweight champion as his next opponent, Hooker made the UFC well aware of his intentions – he wants his shot at headlining a card.
Hooker has been fighting in the UFC since 2014, stopping Ian Entwistle in the first round of his debut in Auckland. The Kiwi spent two years in the featherweight division but after starting his UFC career with a 3-3 record, he made the jump to lightweight in 2017.
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Since making the move to a heavier weight class, Hooker has won six of seven fights and, after beating former title contender Iaquinta, is now the No 7 ranked lightweight in the UFC.
"I want a five-round [fight]; I want a main event," Hooker said.
"I feel like I'm a five-round fighter, so I wanted to take that full 15 minutes [against Iaquinta] and really showcase that. I felt like if I had another two rounds that I would have stopped him for sure."
Hooker dominated his bout from start to finish in Melbourne on Sunday, and was able to flash plenty of his tools as the fight saw both fighters try to implement their striking and grappling ability.
The longest tenured Kiwi fighter in the UFC, Hooker has earned the right to headline the next card in New Zealand. The UFC is believed to be exploring a return to New Zealand as part of their 2020 schedule, having put off plans to explore a return to Kiwi shores in 2019 due to UFC 243 being relocated from Las Vegas to Melbourne.
Hooker's rise not only puts him in position to secure his first headline spot, but also means the UFC can confidently host an event in Auckland without UFC middleweight champion and Hooker's City Kickboxing teammate Israel Adesanya fighting on the card. Adesanya won the title against Robert Whittaker in Melbourne on Sunday, extending his unbeaten record to 18-0.
While UFC boss Dana White said there would be the possibility of Adesanya defending his title on home shores, having Hooker headline a New Zealand show and Adesanya defend his title abroad is likely the ideal outcome for the UFC from a business point of view.
Adesanya is now the company's most marketable champion and has indicated that he would like to defend his title in Las Vegas so Hooker could headline the next card on home soil.
"I want Dan to headline the next Auckland card," Adesanya said after UFC 243.
"Dan's just a superstar in the making. I'm glad that he did what he did on this stage ... I didn't hear his post-fight interview but I did hear 2020 and Dustin Poirier. I think that should headline Spark Arena in Auckland next year."
Poirier heard Hooker's call out, and quickly took to social media to say he was waiting for a fight with former champion Conor McGregor – who hasn't fought since being submitted by current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October last year.
"If he wants to sit around chasing leprechauns that's his own problem. If he wants a real fight, he knows where to find me," Hooker said in response to Poirier.
"I'm a hunter and I'm not ashamed to ask for fights. I deserve to be in there with the best. I have teammates fighting for titles and I'm hungry. I want to fight for the title. Dustin's the quickest route to the title."
Dan Hooker's lightweight rise
- 6-1 record; all seven fights since June 2017
- 11 knockdowns
- Five of six wins by stoppage
- Three first-round finishes
- Notable wins over Al Iaquinta, James Vick, Gilbert Burns