Veteran UFC talent Dan Hooker could turn back the clock five years by making a return to the featherweight division, and a matchup with weight class star “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung would be his preferred welcome back opponent.
Although Hooker (21-11) became a notable name and ranked fighter in the UFC at 155-pounds, the New Zealander’s first six bouts inside the Octagon took place at 145. His 3-3 run in the division came to an end in Nov. 2016 after a decision loss to Jason Knight, and the mixed results after difficult weight cuts made a switch to lightweight a sensible option. And, after winning seven of his first eight at 155-pounds the move looked to be a major success.
Dan Hooker is plotting a return to featherweight
However, with success came a rise in his competition, and that didn’t go quite as well. The 31-year-old has lost three of his last four, with the most recent being a first-round submission loss to Islam Makhachev last month. Having seemingly hit a ceiling at lightweight, Hooker has started to ponder a return back to his former home, and recently underwent a test weight cut.
In a Wednesday interview on The MMA Hour, “The Hangman” spoke about his recent cut and how the process was far easier this time around with help of the experts at the UFC Performance Institute. The process only took two weeks, and he started at around the same weight he would normally begin his cut to the lightweight limit. However, the test was not in coordination with top UFC brass. Essentially, he made the unexpected cut to publicly proclaim he can make the weight, and do so in a healthy way.
“The problem was I didn’t really ask, I just talked to Jordi and Charles, my dieticians, and that was it really. I just talked to them and just went along and got the job done and did it. I haven’t even talked to the UFC about it, so maybe [matchmaker] Sean Shelby’s seen it, maybe he hasn’t. We’ll see,” Hooker said.
Hooker views a move back down to the 145-pound division as a chance to make use of some advantages that went unfulfilled while competing at lightweight.
“There’s a number of advantages that I haven’t been capitalizing on, but that’s just one of them. So it’s kind of moving forward and learning from the past. You have to make adjustments for the future and that’s just one of them. I feel like featherweight is the weight class that I can really thrive at and it’s a weight class where I can really capitalize on all of my advantages,” he said.
Could ‘The Hangman’ vs ‘The Korean Zombie’ happen in 2022?
If Hooker’s switch in weight class gets an official UFC stamp approval, a popular and highly regarded talent like him could be put into several intriguing matchups. However, if it were up to him, the featherweight welcoming committee would begin and end with one name: “The Korean Zombie.”
“Head and shoulders, the No. 1 guy that I would love to get in there with would be ‘The Korean Zombie.’ I would love to throw down with ‘The Zombie,’ said Hooker. … “Whoever the people want to see me in there against will kind of convince the UFC. What everyone wants, everyone can get, but for me, it would be head and shoulders ‘The Korean Zombie.’”
Is Hooker vs Jung at featherweight a fight you hope to see early in 2022?