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Dan Hooker Pleads With US Ambassador to New Zealand for Visa Approval for UFC 266

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 17, 2021

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 22: Dan Hooker of New Zealand poses on the scale during the UFC 257 weigh-in at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 22, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC lightweight Dan Hooker reached out to Kevin Covert, the charge d'affaires at the United States Embassy in New Zealand, seeking help with his visa so he can travel to the U.S. for his fight with Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Sept. 25.

Hooker posted the message Thursday on Twitter:

Dan Hangman Hooker @danthehangman

The embassy has my passport and all the completed documentation, all I need is it to be processed and returned.<br><br>This is an absolute last resort. πŸ™πŸ€ž

New Zealand features some of the most strict COVID-19 prevention measures in the world, and Hooker's hometown of Auckland has become the focus of stay-at-home orders from the government after a spike in cases, per TMZ Sports.

Covert hasn't answered Hooker's message as of Friday morning, but the country's U.S. Embassy did reply telling the UFC fighter to reach out via the official website.

The Embassy previously announced the Auckland area was at COVID Alert Level 4 through at least Tuesday and wouldn't resume visa services until that's reduced to Level 2.

Hooker, 31, is at a critical juncture of his career after back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, which came after he rose up the lightweight division by winning seven times in an eight-fight stretch from June 2017 through February 2020.

"Hangman" explained on Submission Radio in August (via Hunter Brownstein of MMA Weekly) he's been pleased with his development as a fighter despite the recent losses:

"I feel like if anything, over the last year, year and a half, when I have not had good results in the cage, I have been having some big improvements in my skill set. And to me, that's more important than the actual results of the fight, is making sure that I'm developing as a fighter, or everything's progressing and coming together as a fighter. And to me that's my major priority.
"I would rather have the skills and not the results, than the other way around, my skills and everything's declining but I'm getting good results. That's not good long-term. Because I feel like I have so much time left and I'm just kind of coming into my peak now. So, I'm coming into this fight very confident. Very confident in my skill and ability."

Haqparast is at the opposite end of the spectrum as a 26-year-old fighter looking for his first big break, and a win over Hooker could give him that initial push toward earning more high-profile bouts within the lightweight division.

The German scored a victory over Rafa Garcia by unanimous decision in his last fight in March.

For now, the bout remains scheduled for the preliminary card of UFC 266, but it's status rests on Hooker being able to secure a visa in the coming days.

UFC 266 is headlined by a pair of title fights: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega for the featherweight championship and Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy for the women's flyweight belt.