Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is poised to make UFC history by defeating light heavyweight king Jan Blachowicz in March, but it won’t be easy according to Adesanya’s training partner Dan Hooker.
“The Last Stylebender” is scheduled to meet Blachowicz at UFC 259 on March 6 and will attempt to become the fifth simultaneous multi-divisional champion in UFC history. Adesanya hopes to hold both the light heavyweight and middleweight titles, a feat no fighter has ever accomplished in the promotion.
Hooker, who is ranked No. 6 in the UFC’s lightweight division, has trained with Adesanya for years and is admittedly nervous about the fight. Blachowicz is known for his “Polish power,” knocking out the likes of Dominick Reyes and Luke Rockhold en route to becoming the light heavyweight champion.
In a recent interview with Heavy, Hooker said that although he’s nervous about Blachowicz’s power, Adesanya performs the best when he has a big challenge in front of him.
“That fight makes me nervous,” Hooker said. “But every time I feel like this, [Adesanya] does his best performances, which is the funniest thing. The two other times I felt like this was when he fought Derek Brunson and when he fought Rob Whittaker. [They were] the two other times when I was like, ‘Oh man, he’s in for one heck of a fight or he’s in for a dog fight here.’ It brings out the best in him when you put a huge test in front of him or a huge challenge in front of him. That’s when he shines and that’s when he does an outstanding job.”
“So, it’s hard because this fight definitely makes me nervous,” he continued. “[Blachowicz] is a big boy. He hits hard and he’s a really powerful striker. I’m excited to see that one but I’m also incredibly nervous at the same time.”
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Hooker Is Fighting Multi-Time Bellator Champion Michael Chandler on Saturday
Hooker hopes to place himself in the lightweight title conversation with a big win over Michael Chandler at UFC 257 on Saturday. January 23 will mark Chandler’s first bout in the UFC after leaving his longtime promotion Bellator where he won the lightweight title multiple times.
“The Hangman” is a fantastic gauge to see where Chandler fits in the division and conversely, allows Hooker the opportunity to get another big win under his belt. Whoever wins the bout on Saturday will take another step closer to a UFC title shot and possibly a fight with MMA’s biggest star, Conor McGregor.
McGregor is set to headline the event against No. 2 ranked lightweight Dustin Poirier.
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Hooker Expects ‘Big Things’ With a Victory Over Chandler
Although Chandler isn’t ranked in the UFC, he is viewed as a top-tier fighter, even filling the role as backup for the UFC 254 fight between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
The Hangman told Heavy that a win over Chandler would be a massive victory for him. He also said that many of the top-5 lightweights didn’t want to fight Chandler because it was too risky.
“The only reason that I’m here taking this fight is because the other guys, they didn’t want to take the risk,” Hooker said. “They don’t want to take the risk. They don’t want to be on this huge card fighting the unknown, fighting the new guy.
“And this is a sport of risk versus reward. I feel like I took the risk and that warrants the same reward that Chandler would get should he be successful. They’re talking about him with a win being in title contention. So, I want that same reward.
“I can feel it. I feel like there’s nothing but big things coming from this fight.”