Chase Hooper put on a memorable performance at UFC 256 to close out his year. After playing catchup during the striking exchanges for the majority of the fight, the 21-year-old sank a heel hook on opponent Peter Barrett during the final two minutes of round three to pick up his second UFC win.
Sitting on the broadcast booth for color commentary duties that night were Joe Rogan and retired Daniel Cormier. As early as the first round of action, the two expressed concerns about Hooper’s stand-up game.
As DC talked strategies for Hooper to secure a takedown, Rogan pointed out the “stark” differences in Chase’s striking and grappling game. He also suggested that should’ve been given a few tune-ups before signing with the UFC, a similar strategy employed in boxing.
Here are Rogan’s exact words:
He’s such a talented grappler, really talented on the ground. But the difference between his grappling skill and his skill is very stark. It’s a wide contrast. And I don’t like it. It bothers me to see a young guy like that that is fighting in the Octagon and has the potential to really be a great fighter.
But he’s got a lot of room to grow, and you don’t get a lot of room to grow in the UFC. You get thrown into the wolves.
You see a young kid like Chase — who’s got a lot of potential and is really tough — you almost wonder, like, ‘Maybe it’d be better for him if he wasn’t in the UFC.’
Hooper apparently heard what both Rogan and Cormier said at the time, and it didn’t sit quite well with him.
“It’s brutal to hear these people that you kind of idolize a little bit sh-tting all over you,” Hooper said on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s What the Heck podcast. “It’s hard to deal with. Some points were valid but I just feel like it was a little more accentuated than it needed to be. Obviously, I know I need to work on my striking, and I’m getting that situated. I’m gonna go to Thailand and get the work in that I need.
“But I think, because of this narrative that people have that, ‘Oh, his striking is so bad,’ but I was holding my own to an extent. I never felt out of there, I didn’t get rocked, I didn’t get anything significant landed on me anywhere besides my legs, so I feel like I’m making the improvements, but that was glossed over.
“I heard they were pretty brutal the whole night, overall. It’s just a little harder when it’s about you specifically.”
Hooper ended up impressing Rogan as seen during their post-fight conversation. But moving forward, he only plans on further improving and hopefully hear better things from the commentary booth.
“I’m just going to hone my craft, keep getting better, and showing people that I deserve to be here so, hopefully, the commentary is not as negative next time.”