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UFC 281’s Dan Hooker still targeting title despite recent struggles: ‘Nothing else interests me except having the belt’

UFC Fight Night: Allen v Hooker Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Dan Hooker is hopeful that he can turn his mixed martial arts (MMA) career around and work his way back towards title contention. It will all start with his matchup against Claudio Puelles next weekend at UFC 281 in New York City.

Despite being one of the most exciting and memorable fighters on the UFC roster today, Hooker has been struggling inside of the Octagon of late. He is just 1-4 in his last five trips to the cage after going 7-1 from 2017-2020. That lack of success usually leads to a UFC pink slip, but “Hangman” is a true fan favorite and not somebody the promotion is willing to cast aside.

LIVE! Watch UFC 281 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE-DIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to “The Fight Mecca,” Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., on Sat., Nov. 12, 2022, featuring two highly-anticipated championship showdowns. In UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, will look to settle the score with former kickboxing foe and No. 5-seeded contender, Alex Pereira. In the ESPN+-streamed PPV co-main event, women’s Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, intends to defend her newly-won title for the first time against former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Zhang Weili.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

Instead, the promotion is booking Hooker on one of the most-stacked fight cards of the year. And even though Puelles isn’t a top name in the lightweight division it will still provide Hooker the opportunity to regain some momentum at 155 pounds and build a base for his comeback campaign.

While Hooker isn’t overlooking Puelles by any stretch of the imagination he is stepping back and observing the big picture. If he can defeat Puelles at UFC 281 and get back into the win column then maybe he can begin his ascension back towards title contention.

“I’m very confident in my camp, I’m very confident in my team and my preparation. Brick by brick just means building a strong foundation, because, without a strong foundation it will all collapse,” Hooker told Submission Radio. “I feel like that is the position I was in the past where I had a very high tower. My tower was almost at the top. Like I got into positions where I would’ve been one fight away from the Conor McGregor (fight) or one fight away from fighting for the title. But I feel like it wasn’t a strong foundation. I feel like I had just a stack of five tiers on top of each other, in hindsight looking back.

“Coming around the bend, it’s about putting those foundations in place. So, when I get back in position, which obviously is a world title,” Hooker continued. “You will not see me compete in the UFC if the objective is not a world title. I’m not interested in anything else. I’m not interested in the money, I’m not interested. Nothing else interests me except having the belt, because the belt means you’re the best fighter in the world. When I lose sight of that, yeah, I really find no interest in fighting without the opportunity to become the best in the world.”

Hooker, who is coming off a failed attempt to move down in weight after getting bulldozed by featherweight contender Arnold Allen this past March, -s still relatively young at 32 years of age. “Hangman” has put some strong MMA mileage on his body throughout the years, but he’s still a dangerous fighter who can create multiple paths to victory. It will be interesting to see if Hooker can turns things around at UFC 281 when he matches up against Puelles, who is currently riding a five-fight UFC win streak.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 281 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPNEWS/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 281: “Adesanya vs. Pereira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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