And we are in with a shot....they have granted me an appointment Monday. All goes well and I get my passport back, I can jump on the only flight out of NZ Thursday night.— Dan Hangman Hooker (@danthehangman) September 17, 2021
Arrive in Vegas Thursday night, weigh in Friday morning, fight Saturday.#MMATwitter pic.twitter.com/37l4Ajfba7
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New Zealand’s Hooker (20-10) expressed his concerns a week ago on social media for getting a visa in time to compete at UFC 266. After contacting his appropriate consulate, Hooker was given his passport to travel on Thursday, where he flew out of his home country.
Unexpectedly, his opponent Haqparast (13-3), also encountered visa problems to get into the United States for this card shortly after Hooker went through the same issues. On Monday, Haqparast expressed that he was struggling to get his own visa approved for travel from Germany. He too requested those on Twitter to aid him with his journey, and on Thursday morning, it was processed and approved. Both Hooker and Haqparast will be flying out of New Zealand and Germany, respectively, to compete at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight is still scheduled at 155 pounds, and both intend to cut weight on their flights before getting to the Las Vegas on Thursday night.
Hooker will be aiming to snap his first losing streak in over a decade at this event. In a “Fight of the Year” candidate, Hooker fell short to Dustin Poirier at UFC on ESPN 12 by decision. Seven months later, he returned to face Ultimate Fighting Championship newcomer Michael Chandler, and he suffered the first first-round defeat of his career. Before this skid, the Kiwi had won seven of eight, with his lone defeat to Edson Barboza in a stretch that included victories over names like Paul Felder, Gilbert Burns and Al Iaquinta.
German-born Haqparast has won his last two, capturing decisions over Alex Munoz and Rafa Garcia. The Tristar Gym product holds a career knockout rate of 69 percent, although he has only recorded one knockout across his five UFC wins when he starched Joaquin Silva in 2019. Decisions over Marc Diakiese and Thibault Gouti bolster his resume, although Drew Dober separated him from his senses in 70 seconds at the beginning of 2020 to hand Haqparast his first stoppage loss due to strikes.
UFC 266 carries on at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a blockbuster card headlined by a pair of title fights. The main event sees the coaches of season 29 of “The Ultimate Fighter” come to blows for the featherweight strap, as champ Alexander Volkanovski takes on Brian Ortega. The co-marquee matchup pits streaking champion Valentina Shevchenko against strong wrestler Lauren Murphy. Featured high on the main card is a five-round middleweight rematch between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler.