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The Story of Intriguing UFC Prospect Chase Hooper

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Many fighters have come and gone through the UFC, but few have grown up in the promotion like Chase Hooper. He brings along a signature curly head of hair and a neverending smile that has made him one of the most well-liked fighters in the sport, even if he is still considered a UFC prospect.

In a day and age of interconnectedness, Hooper’s social media presence has ranged from humorous to insightful. It has provided a look into the lives of fighters as ordinary people, or even teenagers. He has always been candid to talk about his fight camp or his sweet tooth, even though he describes himself as quiet.

This is only scratching the surface on Chase Hooper, as he has the potential to become a title threat in the UFC years down the road. His growth has been off the charts so far, and there is little indication that he will slow down.

Chase Hooper’s Surreal Career as a UFC Prospect

The Enumclaw, Washington native has grown up in the fight game, as he first participated in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the young age of nine years old. It was clear he found his calling, as he began to medal in tournaments from then on, finishing as the Pan-American Middleweight BJJ champion at age 16.

He then parlayed that into an amateur MMA career, but there was quite the twist. He had to fight on native reservations in casinos, as he was under 18 and unable to get a license from the state commission. “It was kind of funny; they would let me fight, they’d keep me in the back, I would go out, I would fight and then the security would have to escort me in the back and keep an eye on me. They wouldn’t let me out on the floor or anything,” he told the New York Post.

Somehow, he could keep a cool head and manage the typical teenage distractions, going 5-0 in his amateur fights and finishing all five. He was even able to go against his parents’ desire to keep him safe, as he says that he fought MMA regardless of their approval: their blessing was just a cherry on top.

In high school, Hooper flew under the radar and preferred to take the humble route. Most people didn’t know he was fighting, as he described himself as quiet: “I didn’t really talk to too many people. I was quiet. I still am.”

In a time when most kids are heading to parties, eating junk, and playing video games, Hooper was in the gym training, picking up his first professional win a mere 24 days after he turned 18 years old, almost as soon as he could fight. True to Hooper fashion, it came by way of a rear-naked choke against Edson Penado.

Hooper’s humility and willingness to connect with those around him helped launch his career as a UFC prospect, as he was respected on the regional scene as a fighter who would step in anytime, anywhere. His young age helped him, as he related easily with fans on social media, coming off as congenial and easy-going, even self-deprecating at times. He even helped yours truly with a school project for journalism class, where he provided picks for UFC 248 and even exclusive corner footage of his pro debut against Edson Penado.

However, Hooper still has that fighter’s mentality, and it shines every time the cage door closes. When asked about his favorite technique to use in MMA, he told the Post: I like the banana split. There’s really nothing like seeing the fear in someone’s eyes when you’re about to rip their groin in half. That gets people to tap, for sure.”

That is why Chase Hooper is so loved by fans: he’s down-to-earth and humble, but he also enjoys strangling people for a living, as a fighter should. When that side shines through, he is a menace to those in the other corner.

Welcome to the Show

Chase Hooper (11-2-1 4-2-0 UFC) got a call to Dana White’s Contender Series at age 18 to face off against Canaan Kawaihae, and it proved to be his toughest test to date, as he was battered early on in the fight. He looked like he was on his way out heading into the second round, but he was quickly able to secure clinch control in the second round and ground control in the third. As a result, he earned a hard-fought decision win in his first fight as a UFC prospect fighter.

Upon the victory, White felt that Chase Hooper needed polishing. Thus, he was given what is known as a developmental contract, where he had a few more fights on the regional scene to hone his game before he took his spot in the UFC. He finished both of them with ease, defeating Sky Moiseichik by second-round TKO and putting away Luis Gomez by first-round rear-naked choke.

Chase Hooper stepped in against Daniel Teymur at UFC 245 for his first fight with the promotion, and it became clear the bright lights did not faze him in the slightest. He picked up a first-round finish by ground and pound in brutal fashion, utilizing his jiu-jitsu prowess to set up offensive positions once submissions were out of the question.

That is what sets Hooper apart from other prospects, especially those his age: he relies on his elite jiujitsu to win scrambles on the ground and set up submissions. His cardio, as well, is especially elite for a young fighter that is likely to move up a weight class once he fills out his frame.

That presents a unique opportunity for Chase Hooper, as he is learning on the fly and developing fight-by-fight in the toughest promotion in the world. He has not even fully developed at six-foot-one, 145 pounds, and that lanky frame has posed a challenge for not only his opponents but for him as well. His striking coordination has lacked, and so he has had to heavily rely on his grappling while bringing the rest along in training.

Nonetheless, his win at UFC 245 cemented his status as the youngest fighter in UFC history, and it gave him plenty of reason to stick around in the promotion. However. he had to celebrate in an unconventional way- he told Ariel Helwani that he spent the day in New York visiting the M&M factory, indulging his infamous sweet tooth. He had no option to go clubbing, as he was well under the legal American drinking age of 21.

His second fight in the UFC came against Alex Caceres, a veteran of the featherweight division who had 11 wins at the time. It was clear that Caceres (19-13-0 15-11-0 1 NC UFC) was levels ahead of Hooper, as he dominated the fight on the feet and refused to let Hooper get the fight to the ground. The youngster struggled to get a takedown and was outstruck 100-53.

The rough stretch continued in his next bout, but he squeaked out a win against Peter Barrett, a New England veteran. Hooper showed much better takedown acumen, but looked lost on the feet and threw long, looping jabs and kicks that did nothing to faze Barrett.

However, Chase Hooper landed a takedown late in the fight and went to work, securing a textbook heel hook for the third-round finish and his eighth career submission win. Even more impressive, though, is that it was executed via Iminari Roll, a favorite technique of the unorthodox Tony Ferguson and one notoriously hard to perfect.

Commentators Daniel Cormier, Jon Anik, and Joe Rogan remarked on Hooper’s length and grappling ability for someone so young. Anik noted multiple times that a fighter Hooper’s age was not supposed to be making strides in the toughest promotion in the sport, and said he “would not be surprised” if he were to move up to 155 once he put more muscle on.

They also criticized his striking as “loopy” and immature and posited that that would be the next piece to fall before Hooper could become a legitimate prospect in the division. Anik, however, acknowledged that would take time, before remarking that Hooper had plenty of it.

Following the win against Barrett, Chase Hooper turned towards another journeyman in Stephen Peterson. Peterson (19-10-0 3-5-0 UFC) looked far more comfortable standing and was able to control the fight at a distance. Hooper landed three takedowns and looked better on the feet than before, but his opponent looked a much stronger and smarter fighter.

Hooper worked in several tight submission attempts after gaining takedowns, but that seemed to be it for him, as Peterson proved to be far too wily and seasoned for the youngster. After losing 29-28, 30-27, 20-27, the Enumclaw native remarked that he had a lot more work to do if he wanted to succeed as a fighter. Thus, he ventured to Greenville, South Carolina to train with former UFC welterweight title challenger and perennial top contender Stephen Thompson, a karate black belt known for his striking prowess.

This showed in his most recent fight, as Hooper dispatched Felipe Colares in the third round by ground-and-pound TKO after controlling the fight from bell to bell. He used aggressive grappling and submission attempts to gain the upper hand on Colares. He did surrender two takedowns, but his striking was worlds better. He caught Colares with several solid shots that were well-timed and technically sound.

Towards the middle of the third, Chase Hooper used a slick transition to mount Colares and rain down elbows for a stoppage and his third UFC win. The finish also earned him a performance bonus and has set the stage for his career to continue to progress.

What Makes Him Promising as a UFC Prospect

Many UFC prospects have entered with high ceilings and expectations, but Hooper is different as far as prospects go. For one thing, he has plenty of time, as he is only 22 and entered the promotion with a world-champion BJJ prowess and an undefeated record. His jiu-jitsu skills are aided by his unusually long and lanky frame for 145 pounds and flexibility that enables him to win scrambles and escape from less-than-desirable positions.

In terms of technical ability, Chase Hooper could be one of the most sound grapplers in the whole of the UFC prospect pool, and the UFC, not just the featherweight division. However, he is able to use it in another way: two of his UFC wins came by TKO after he was able to use his BJJ transitions to get into mount and rain down strikes upon his opponents.

That’s well and good, but what makes Hooper stand out as a name to watch at featherweight is his potential. He is learning on the fly in the world’s premier MMA promotion and wins fights while still being a very raw prospect, one who entered the UFC with almost no striking game. However, if he continues to improve while raising his status as a UFC prospect, he could come into his own while he achieves top-20 status in the division.

Training with “Wonderboy” Thompson is highly likely to improve his striking, and if he can become average to above-average on the feet, it will add a formidable facet to a fighter with a lot of promise. A confident striking game will put Hooper’s opponents on the defensive as they cannot focus entirely on his plus grappling and takedown skills that complement it. This will open opportunities for Hooper to win important clinch transitions off of his improved striking, and there would be ample chances for him to direct the fight to the ground from that.

With his long frame, a competent striking game could even be a weapon, especially when he possesses reach advantages over the majority of the featherweight division. As he matures and learns to implement his gifts in a heady and confident way, he could become one of the most dangerous UFC prospects at featherweight or the entire league.

For now, though, Hooper faces another test. He is due to face Steve Garcia (12-5-0 1-2-0 UFC), a fighter who won after dropping his debut but lost soundingly in the first round to Maheshate his last time out. If Hooper can string it all together, it is likely we see a top-15 opponent in the next few fights.

When one steps away and looks at it wholesale, the league was taking quite the flier on UFC prospect Chase Hooper, but it appears it is going to pay off in the long run. Don’t count out “the Dream”- he might catch you sleeping.

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I’m a high school student who is a massive sports fan, and I have a passion for writing about the things I love, including MMA.

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