‘I couldn’t say ‘yes’ any quicker’: Enumclaw’s Chase Hooper to grapple former UFC bantamweight champion

The match is scheduled for Jan. 19 at 8 a.m. PST, and will be streamed on TX7 Sports.

By Charlotte McKinely


Enumclaw-native and UFC lightweight Chase Hooper will be meeting former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in a cage Friday morning.

The catch? It’s not for MMA.

After winning his fight against UFC lightweight Jordan Leavitt last November, Hooper was asked if he would like to grapple former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in Abu Dhabi on the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship 2 card.

“I couldn’t say ‘yes’ any quicker,” Hooper said.

It was his love for jiu jitsu that led him to MMA where he signed on with the UFC in 2019 and subsequently won his debut fight. He had seven more fights over the next four years — four of which were wins.

Though MMA is what pays the bills, Hooper still enjoys competing in Jiu Jitsu.

“The grappling side of things are still the fun part for me,” Hooper said. “(They are) a little lower stakes and get me opportunities like this one (in) Abu Dhabi (to) compete against other high level guys.”

Both Sterling and Hooper are no stranger to jiu jitsu and professional grappling matches with two professional matches under their belts, each holding one win and one loss. A black belt under Matt Sera, Sterling was (also) a two-time NCAA Division III all-American.

As a black belt under Jeff Hougland, Hooper is also regarded as a high level athlete. Having started the sport over 16 years ago when Hougland opened Combat Sport Fitness, he has competed in local, regional and national tournaments as well as on Fury Pro Grappling.

Now, he is looking forward to the opportunity to grapple on a new promotion with different rules.

Whereas his previous professional grappling experience has been in a standard open-mat setting, Hooper finds himself locked in a cage for ADXC.

“(It is) similar to what I do now (for) my actual profession,” Hooper said. “It’s nice to be able to keep (things) as similar as possible.”

His MMA training throughout the preparation for ADXC was another thing Hooper kept similar. The differences in his training came with the grappling.

Typically, black belt grappling matches are upwards of eight minutes long and a single round. This leaves time for slower, more methodical gameplans. Stalling or intentionally rolling out of bounds to get reset is a common practice.

With ADXC, however, there are five three-minute rounds and one minute breaks in between each round for a main event. This works to eliminate slower matches and stalling. Winners are decided via submission or by judges using a “10-point must” system.

During training, Hooper shortened his grappling rounds to account for his headlining match with Sterling.

“I think the shorter rounds actually favor me for attacking a lot of submissions, and I think the scoring system will favor that,” Hooper said. “I can really push the pace and grapple really hard for those three minutes and then rest for a minute.”

The last time Hooper had short, three minute rounds was over seven years ago as an amateur MMA fighter. After turning pro, Hooper’s MMA rounds increased to five minutes.

“Having the shorter round is fun because again, I haven’t experienced that in a long time,” Hooper said.

Heading into this no-gi welterweight match, Hooper is looking forward to competing against “one of the best bantamweights in UFC history.”

Sterling is a good wrestler, but in terms of jiu jitsu, Hooper thinks he has him beat.

“I think I’m more in line with the sport that we’re going to be doing here on Friday,” Hooper said. “Where he’s probably having to make more changes to his game plan in order to try and win the match, I think I have more ways to win.”

Since Sterling is nearing the end of his UFC career and Hooper still has it ahead of him, this match is an opportunity for two well-known athletes to compete against each other in a situation that otherwise might not have happened.

After Abu Dhabi, Hooper has his sights set on “hunkering down” and focusing on MMA. His goal is to fight three times before the year is out.

“I definitely like to squeeze in the grappling matches if there’s any time and the names make sense,” Hooper said. “But fighting is the main priority.”

ADXC 2 takes place on Friday, Jan. 19 at 8:00 a.m. PST at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi and will be streamed on TX7 Sports.

Charlotte McKinley is a freelance journalist and focuses on Washington state MMA and jiu jitsu sports news. Contact her at charlottefrancesmckinley@gmail.com.