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Dan Hooker wants Justin Gaethje fight because Michael Chandler was a bust

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UFC Fight Night: Felder v Hooker Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Top 5 lightweight contender Dan Hooker is looking to get back into the 155-pound title chase after coming up short against ex-interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC on ESPN 12 back in June, and “The Hangman” is already focused on one of the most talked about names in the division.

No, it’s not Michael Chandler.

“Hands down, I want the (Justin) Gaethje fight,” Hooker told MMA Junkie. “Just to me, as a fan of the sport, watching it from the outside, having Chandler turn down the (Tony) Ferguson opportunity in December kind of takes away a lot of that gung-ho mystique off him. He was coming into the UFC from another organization saying, ‘I’ll fight anyone, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to step in for the title.’ He stands on the scale and essentially makes weight and that rules him out of a fight against Tony Ferguson which, you beat Tony Ferguson, you pretty much position yourself as that next guy in line for a title shot.”

Chandler, who held lightweight gold under the Bellator MMA banner, crossed over to UFC earlier this year as an immediate back-up for the UFC 254 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Abu Dhabi. But after making championship weight, “Iron” took himself out of contention for the rest of the year.

“For him to turn down that opportunity because he stepped on a scale and made weight, like how tough is it for this guy to make weight? For me, it’s not a difficult thing,” Hooker continued. “Making weight for me is fairly straightforward, fairly easy. So that, to me, kinda takes a lot of the mystique off the guy. Him saying he’s ready to go, he’ll fight anyone, ‘Oh wait, I don’t want to fight Tony Ferguson.’ So even for me, fighting Chandler, it takes a lot of the hype that’s behind Chandler away, so it makes him less appealing to fight.”

Gaethje was submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 and is expected to make his return to combat sports in first quarter 2021. No word yet on a potential opponent, but the No. 1-ranked “Highlight” could certainly do a lot worse than “The Hangman” in terms of quality of opposition.