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Dan Hooker details getting last-minute visa for UFC 266, not concerned about making weight

Written by on September 20, 2021

Dan Hooker will fight at UFC 266, though there was a point where that was far from certain.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent lockdown in New Zealand, Hooker was having issues getting his visa to travel to the U.S. for his fight with Nasrat Haqparast. But thankfully, he has acquired the necessary document.

“I’ll be there,” Hooker, who on Saturday faces Nasrat Haqparast, said Monday on The MMA Hour. “That’s all in the clear. The visa was the only thing stopping me. Last Friday here in New Zealand, my flight was Sunday, and the consulate got in touch with me and said, ‘We’re not gonna be able to process the visa until the end of [next] week.’ I had done so much work to get to this point, so I went to social media. I went to MMA Twitter, I was on the 6:00 news here in New Zealand on a few different stations, everyone getting behind me and just bombarding the consulate. Everyone was submitting like, ‘Get Dan Hooker his visa, full applications.’

“So with everyone’s help, out of the blue, they said, ‘We’ll give you an appointment Monday midday, [and] I got down there [and] got it done. As far as I’m concerned, this fight’s [a go] and I’ll be out of here on Thursday.”

This past Friday, he reached out to Kevin Covert, the acting U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, for help in getting his documents situated.

@USAmbNZ Hi Kevin, apologies for messaging on here but it’s a last resort.

My visa is with the US embassy here in NZ as I fight next week in Las Vegas on #UFC266

Update today is it won’t be approved until next week due to lock down which will cancel my fight. Please help.

— Dan Hangman Hooker (@danthehangman) September 16, 2021

After being granted his visa, Hooker updated the MMA world about his successful meeting. Statistically, it’s very difficult to get permission to travel internationally on short-notice, but help from the public and media likely saved the day.

After Hooker put pen to paper for the Haqparast bout, a COVID-19 lockdown began in New Zealand, making things quite difficult for the City Kickboxing 155er to even train for the event on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“This camp has been a tricky one,” Hooker explained. “When I signed for this fight, it was like five weeks ago Sunday, [and] that Tuesday we went into a complete lockdown in New Zealand – and if you don’t know about lockdown in New Zealand, it’s not like other places. Absolutely everything is shut [down]. The U.S. Embassy was shut [down], the consulate was shut [down] processing any visa applications.

“The UFC got in touch with them, and they said I can’t come down to the embassy to get his visa, I can just [send] it in. I filled out all the forms, [sent] it in, and I was sitting around for four weeks waiting to get my passport. For it to come to last Friday for them to say they’re not gonna get it done in time, I couldn’t accept that.”

Hooker, 31, looks to bounce back from consecutive losses for the first time since the start of his pro career over 10 years ago. After winning three straight fights, Hooker headlined UFC on ESPN 12 against Dustin Poirier and lost a unanimous decision in one of the best fights of the year. In January at UFC 257, he welcomed Michael Chandler to the promotion and was stopped in just over two minutes by the former Bellator champion.

Wanting badly to right the past two wrongs, Hooker is thankful to the MMA community for lending a helping hand by putting the pressure on government officials.

“If I didn’t put the pressure on them, [this wouldn’t have happened],” Hooker stated. “No one will publicly come out and say, ‘If you just bombard us on social media and absolutely harass us on the 6:00 news, your visa will be processed a lot faster.’ For it to come out of the blue like that, and as far as I know, this was the only appointment they’ve given for the last five or six weeks.”

Upon arriving to his meeting at the U.S. consulate, Hooker described it as a gentleman simply opening a door and extending his hand for him to pass along his paperwork to be processed. From there, he had to play the waiting game.

“I waited an hour and a half, and then someone came down, handed me my passport. Not a single word was spoken,” Hooker said. “I had to have it. It’s negative energy thinking that it won’t happen. In terms of everything, that’s the easy part. Getting the visa, the flights, that’s the easy part getting to the fight. You still have to focus on the main thing, which is getting in there with one of the best fighters in the world and competing.”

Hooker won’t arrive to Las Vegas until Thursday night. After checking in to the hotel, He’ll have roughly 12 hours to complete his weight cut before stepping on the scale at the official weigh-ins on Friday. Asked why he waited so long to make the trek, he revealed there really weren’t any other feasible options.

“There’s only two flights leaving New Zealand heading in that direction during the week,” Hooker said. “I could’ve gotten a flight on Tuesday, but it would be like 50 hours. I would fly 17 hours to Dubai and then 14 hours to [Los Angeles], so I would’ve gotten there Thursday anyway. This is my only option. If you miss that Sunday flight, then Thursday is the only flight.”

With the pressures of travel, scheduling, and a very short window from the plane landing to stepping on the scale, Hooker has no concerns that he will take home the first half of his paycheck.

“I’m not worried about that,” Hooker stated. “That’s the small stuff, we can iron that out. I’m prepared for absolutely anything. I’m just gonna do what I’m told and just focus on the fight. Whether it’s a hard cut or an easy cut, once i’m there, I’m there.

“Without a doubt, [I’ll make the weight].”