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‘The truth is somewhere in the middle’ - Chase Hooper says support can be as out of place as criticism in MMA

Chase Hooper sounds like he’s trying to tune out the overly positive and excessively negative messages in MMA, and instead live somewhere in the middle.

Chase Hooper is coming off a TKO win over Felipe Colares
Chase Hooper is coming off a TKO win over Felipe Colares
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

On August 30, 2019 was just two weeks away from his 20th birthday. He had also just inked a deal to fight in the UFC that coming December, against an opponent yet to be named. Hooper fought on the prelims of that PPV event, UFC 245, scoring a first-round TKO win over Daniel Teymur. The victory moved Hooper’s record to 9-0-1, and cemented him as one of the promotion’s brightest—and youngest—prospects. A lot has changed for the ‘Dream’ since his UFC debut.

Most notably, his unbeaten record is a thing of the past. The 22-year-old version of Hooper is now 11-2-1. He’s also coming off the biggest win of his career, however, a May 21, 2022 TKO win over Felipe Colares. Hooper earned his first UFC ‘of the night’ bonus for that win, his first TKO victory since stopping Teymur two-and-a-half years earlier.

While growth will no doubt be the main topic of conversation at this point in Hooper’s career—as it should be for any talent that makes it to a stage as big as the UFC as young as he did—it’s the changes he’s made outside the cage that might be the most significant adjustments during his brief, and still developing UFC career.

Not content to be a curiosity as the gawky kid with wacky hair and a penchant for M&M’s, Hooper has shown maturity beyond his years in how he views the sport and his place in the UFC.

“For so many fighters, they don’t get the opportunity to adjust to that level,” Hooper said in a recent interview on The MMA Hour. “You’re jumping in to the deeper pool each time, and the UFC, the depth of that is infinite. I’m now in the same weight class as Max Holloway; I could potentially fight Alexander Volkanovski one day. That’s crazy to think about when you’re debuting. And rubbing elbows with Demian Maia, Israel Adesanya, Colby [Covington], [Kamaru] Usman, all these crazy high-level guys I’ve been on cards with, it’s so hard to jump in there at 20 when I debuted, and you’re like, ‘These are my co-workers now?’ It’s so hard to adjust to.

“But now, this is my fifth fight. So many things went perfect in the lead-up [to Colares], and I know exactly what to expect with the UFC fight week now, and I feel like I adjusted to it well. I’ve pressurized to the level of the depth of the UFC, and I’m ready to start working my way forward.”

One way Hooper plans to advance is to tune out the noise from his overly active supporters as well as his inordinately vocal detractors and try to live somewhere in the middle.

“I appreciate the positivity, but those people, their comments are just as out of place as the people that tell you that you suck,” said Hooper. “The truth is somewhere in the middle.”

Hooper said that listening to sports psychologists has helped him on his journey. Also assisting him has been the realization that his career and achievements inside the sport are a personal pursuit.

“I’m not doing this for other people’s opinions. I’m not doing this to satisfy what you people think of me. I’m doing this for myself and for my family.”

No word yet on when Hooper might be returning to action, but don’t expect any major leaps up in competition. Hooper recently expressed his admiration for the Sean O’Malley style of fight booking or, in his own words, “fight the lowest ranked guy, for the most amount of money, on the highest spot on the card.”