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Dan Hooker hoping to keep MMA on the crest of a wave at UFC Fight Night Auckland

MMA is in its strongest period in New Zealand after Israel Adesanya's groundbreaking Sportsman of the Year win at the Halberg Awards, but Dan Hooker is leading a group wanting to open more eyes to the sport.

Hooker’s fight against Paul Felder headlines this weekend’s UFC Fight Night in Auckland, the third on our shores.

“I’ve had so many people asking me about it - you know, people that I never thought were interested in the sport or, you know, gave it the respect have now had their eyes open to it,” he said.

“This weekend couldn't be any more important. I'm all in. I've mortgaged the house. I've committed to this so much. This means everything to me.”

Felder is also all too aware of the wave the sport is riding in New Zealand.

The American was among those welcomed onto Orakei Marae today, having had a welcome of a different kind in the days since he arrived.

“We've been walking around the park near where we're staying and people have been yelling out of their cars at me, yelling, ‘Felder, I'm a big fan,’” he said.

Felder is hoping to pull in more fans, win or lose, against the local lad on another momentous night for MMA in New Zealand.