What were you doing when you turned 18?
If you were anything like me, you were getting ready to head out on your own for the first time to college and unsure about what being on your own for the first time really meant. But if your name is Chase Hooper, you were 18 years old and fighting for an opportunity to compete in the UFC.
At just a couple months shy of his 19th birthday, Hooper was undefeated in his amateur and pro MMA career and appeared on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series on UFC Fight Pass. He won his fight against fellow undefeated fighter Canaan Kawaihae, but did not receive a full-time UFC contract as a result.
However, the still-undefeated Hooper did receive a developmental contract from the UFC for his win, but didn’t really have the opportunity to fully soak in his experience on the show.
“I took a short notice fight against a tough veteran when I only had three fights, and it was a title fight that I took on three hours’ notice,” said Hooper, who holds a record of 7-0-1. He added that after his victory, he checked his email and saw a message from UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby inviting him to appear on DWTNCS.
“I was mainly focused on chugging water and cutting weight for the fight and everything was kind of a blur,” Hooper said. “But it was cool to walk in the gym and see all the jerseys from previous seasons of The Ultimate Fighter.”
Hooper’s developmental contract includes the opportunity to train at the UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas and to appear on regional MMA fight cards that air on UFC Fight Pass, including Hooper’s upcoming fight for Titan Fighting Championships on Friday, June 28.
Much like his early start in mixed martial arts, Hooper was introduced to combat sports at an early age by his father. He started training in kickboxing and jiu-jitsu when he was 9 years old and when he started to seriously consider pursuing MMA as a full-time career around the age of 15, Hooper wanted to model himself after some of the fighters he grew up watching.
“I have a strong jiu-jitsu game, so I enjoyed watching guys like Demian Maia and the Diaz brothers,” Hooper said. “But I also like guys like Donald Cerrone who just go out there and fight.”
A brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Hooper was training six days a week and won his specific division and placed second in an open weight division in an International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Foundation Pan-American competition.
After graduating high school in his native Washington in 2017 with a 3.9 GPA, Hooper devoted himself full-time to MMA and made the sacrifices that came with that decision.
“I sacrificed everything,” he said. “I didn’t hang out with my friends, but it was definitely a dream come true, and I never had the chance to travel before. It was cool to fly across the country and fight in places like Las Vegas and Pensacola. New Jersey was cool too, but it was in December and it was cold.”
Hooper is excited about his opportunity with Titan FC, and described the organization as “super professional – probably the most professional promotion I’ve ever met.”
As far as Hooper’s first fight with Titan against Luis Gomez (7-3) – who previously faced UFC veterans like Sodiq Yusuff and Dan Ige – he is treating it the same as every fight in his young career.
“There’s always a lot on the line in my mind,” Hooper said. “I put pressure on myself and just work on my game. [Gomez’s] style works well against my style – I expect him to keep coming forward in this fight.”
Although Hooper has already accomplished a lot in his career despite not even being 20 years old, his goal of getting back to the big stage remains the same.
“I want to get in the UFC and stay there for a while,” Hooper said. “I don’t want just one or two fights then leave. I want to have a career, but I also want to know when to walk away and not turn into one of those guys who stick around for too long.”
Photo Credit: MMA Junkie