'Showed their true colours': Kiwi UFC star unloads on NZ 'big wigs'

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Sep 2021, 11:52AM
Dan Hooker made his return at UFC 266 at the weekend. (Photo / Getty Images)
Dan Hooker made his return at UFC 266 at the weekend. (Photo / Getty Images)

'Showed their true colours': Kiwi UFC star unloads on NZ 'big wigs'

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Sep 2021, 11:52AM

Whether he's inside the cage or outside of it, Kiwi UFC star Dan Hooker doesn't pull his punches.

After a dominant unanimous decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Sunday, Hooker unloaded on the treatment he received in New Zealand during the build-up to the fight, saying the powers that be "showed their true colours."

Hooker signed the bout just days before Auckland was forced into a level 4 lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic in August. Before lockdown came into effect, Hooker and members of City Kickboxing moved in to the gym to set up their own bubble which they believed adhered to restrictions in order to continue training, as some members did in level 3 of 2020.

However, after about a week the bubble was forced to disperse when they received a warning from police. Hooker and some others he began lockdown with continued to train for his fight at his own gym – the Combat Academy in Auckland – but again the police were called and warned those involved.

In an interview with ESPN, Hooker said he had about a dozen interactions with police over the past six weeks as he prepared to represent to country on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts.

A week before his fight, he was still awaiting his visa and called on social media to help get him a meeting with the US Embassy after being unable to do so by getting in touch with them himself.

"I feel like the powers that be showed their true colours," Hooker told media in Las Vegas of his experiences over the past six weeks.

"I feel like Sport New Zealand, the big wigs in the media back home in New Zealand, they've just kind of been playing nice with us. Because we've been getting so much attention for the country, they've been playing along, playing nice with us and then they saw an opportunity to put a cap on us and showed their true colours of what they really wanted to do which was stop MMA and the UFC getting massive in New Zealand. But it's a part of our culture. Combat sports is a part of our DNA in New Zealand and we're going to push through no matter what."

In the past, teams visiting New Zealand have been allowed to train together in full capacity while observing their two weeks in MIQ. However, several homegrown teams have not had the same luxury when the country has been in level 4 or level 3 lockdowns.

Hooker, who last week revealed members of City Kickboxing's UFC contingent were looking into a move out of New Zealand for the good of their careers, said he was willing to make the move overseas not because he wanted to leave New Zealand, but because it would mean his career wouldn't be hampered by an inability to secure MIQ spots or lockdowns.

"When I say that, yeah I'm willing to come over here and move to the States to continue. It's not because I want to move away from New Zealand or take anything away from New Zealand. I want to keep the ball rolling for New Zealand; I want to keep the ball rolling for my people.

"I don't want to just go home and stay in my house, shut up and stay quiet and do what they want me to do which is not train, not fight, sit on my hands, shut my gym down and not continue to grow the sport in New Zealand. I'm not going to take that.

"I'm going to continue to train, I'm going to continue to fight, I'm going to continue to make sure the UFC and MMA in NZ has a massive future and isn't going anywhere. So, the powers that be, in the way that I say that, can kiss my ass because we're not going anywhere. We are a sport; we are a part of New Zealand culture and it's going to be there for a very long time."