Chase Hooper is thriving being the veteran once again as he steps into the UFC Octagon.
He prepares to face the New England Cartel’s Nick Fiore, who enters his second UFC fight and eighth professional bout at UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Hill. As for Hooper, this is going to be his seventh UFC fight alone.
“It's definitely a big experience gap and I'm really interested to see how that's going to play out,” Hooper said. “I’d like to hope that I don't make the same mistakes I did when I only had seven pro fights. I kind of want to see that play out.”
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The 23-year-old has made the jump up to lightweight for the first time in his UFC career, with all of his previous fights taking place in the featherweight division. Following his last fight against Steve Garcia, one of which he didn’t come out victorious, he decided it was time to make the move to 155.
“I had been flirting with the idea of moving up for a couple of fights and then that one sealed the deal because I felt a little drained,” Hooper said. “It's a lot to try and recuperate from months of dieting and weeks of doing just the bare essentials of food. It's hard to recover from that in 24 hours.”
The Washington native has gone 3-3 inside the Octagon since he made his debut back in 2019, earning wins over Daniel Teymur, Peter Barrett, and Felipe Colares. Throughout that time period, Hooper feels like he has grown as a fighter and has been able to transfer that into his fights.
“I feel a bit more thought out, just more mature,” Hooper said. “I feel like my brain is more developed, higher Fight IQ and all that. I've learned how to train. I've learned how to break down fights. I used to not want to watch my opponents at all, it was too much anxiety for me. But now I've learned how to do that objectively and watch the guys, break down their tendencies and just become a more well-rounded fighter.”
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During his interview with UFC.com, Hooper expressed that another reason he wanted to change weight classes was so that he could be more defensive on the feet.
He knows his abilities on the mat outrank his striking abilities at the moment, but he still wants to have that in his tool belt if he ever were to need it. With five of his 11 wins coming by submission, Hooper wants to stick to what got him to the big leagues and that’s his jiu-jitsu and grappling. He’ll have the opportunity to showcase that once again this weekend against Fiore.
“He's obviously from a great camp, trains with high-level guys all the time,” Hooper said. “Training is a lot different than fighting. It's a lot easier to train with high-level guys in the gym when there's nothing at stake. On top of that, I just feel like I have a hard pace to keep up with and I have a really awkward style of grappling. My key to winning a lot of fights is just being weird and awkward like I am and grappling that way.”
After having a mixed bag of results in the UFC up to the point, Hooper is hoping to make a statement in his UFC lightweight debut on Saturday night and get things back to the win column so he can start stringing together a few wins in a row.
That all starts by defeating Nick Fiore.
“I think it helps cement my place here at lightweight. It means a lot, obviously. You're not going to stay around if you're not winning. It's a cutthroat sport. You have to win to keep your job. So this means the world to me,” Hooper said. “I want to prove that I deserve to be here, and that lightweight is the division that's the best for my body and the best for my performances.”
UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Hill took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 20, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!