Dan Hooker doesn’t believe UFC will bow to Conor McGregor if he returns from retirement

Dan Hooker doesn’t believe UFC will bow to Conor McGregor if he returns from retirement

Dan Hooker is confident a win over Dustin Poirier at UFC on ESPN 12 will earn him a title shot – even if Conor McGregor decides he wants to fight again.

As the New Zealand native prepares for his second consecutive headliner, he believes adding a former interim champ to his resume – along with a four-fight win streak – should be enough to convince the UFC that he’s next in line to challenge the winner of the upcoming fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.

Considering the landscape at 155 pounds right now, Hooker’s logic definitely carries some weight. But the one person who potentially could play spoiler to those plans is former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor.

Despite his only win at lightweight in the UFC coming in 2016, McGregor remains a viable challenger to the belt after he made his return to action as a welterweight in January and made quick work of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. In the weeks and months since that fight, UFC president Dana White has repeatedly called a lightweight title shot the most logical next step in McGregor’s career.

But McGregor apparently got fed up with waiting, and he announced his retirement from the sport just after UFC 250 ended in early June.

While the Irish superstar has stayed relatively quiet since making that announcement, most MMA observers, including Hooker, believe McGregor will eventually make his return. But the New Zealander said if the ex-champ has designs on a title shot, he’ll need to get in line.

“That fight is set, Gaethje and Khabib – that fight is going to happen in September, and I’m the next guy in line,” Hooker explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “That will be a four fight streak over the No. 3, No. 6, No. 6 and another ranked fighter. Those are top-ranked guys.

“The next guy in line would be Conor McGregor, who looking back at it now, has a win over the No. 12 [ranked fighter] in the division. So when you compare resumes, it would be pretty difficult to hand him a title shot over me without me kicking up a fuss.”

Because McGregor is the biggest draw in the history of the sport, the UFC tends to cater to his every whim, especially when he’s motivated to fight. He may be retired right now, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where he declares his intention to return to face the winner of Nurmagomedov and Gaethje.

Hooker doesn’t discount that possibility, but he believes the way recent negotiations for title fights have taken place that the UFC won’t simply bow down to McGregor’s demands.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense with what we’re seeing now with the UFC kind of standing their ground with a lot of these big-named guys who want to kind of call the shots, and the UFC’s jumping back in and saying we’re the ones running the show,” Hooker said. “So I don’t think that benefits Conor very well, if he’s going to try to position himself for a title shot when compared to me.

“You’re seeing it now with Gilbert Burns-[Kamaru] Usman fight. Jorge Masvidal was obviously the clear frontrunner for that title shot, but contract negotiations turned south and the UFC gave it to the guy who wants to fight.”

While McGregor’s potential return would almost certainly involve concessions being made in negotiations with the UFC, Hooker will be ready to sign the dotted line as soon as the title shot is offered to him.

“I’m one of those guys,” Hooker explained. “I want to stay active. I want to fight and understands how this sport works.”

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