It's official. Dan Hooker will be the headline act in his hometown after being confirmed for the main event when the UFC returns to Auckland next year.
Hooker, the seventh-ranked lightweight, will continue his push for a title shot against No 6 contender Paul Felder at the UFC Fight Night at Spark Arena on February 23.
With Israel Adesanya being lined up to defend his middleweight title on a pay-per-view show next year, Hooker (20-8) was always the frontrunner to lead the card.
The Auckland fighter, who featured on the undercard of the previous two UFC events in the City of Sails, has been on a remarkable run since moving up to lightweight two years ago.
He is 7-1 in the division, earning a reputation for slick highlight-reel stoppages against Ross Pearson, Jim Miller and James Vick.
Last month, 'The Hangman' stated his case for a five-round main event slot with a dominant unanimous decision win over the highly-rated Al Iaquinta, showcasing his technique and fight IQ.
His wish has been granted with Felder (17-4) making the trip from America for a fight that is almost two years in the making.
Hooker earned widespread praise for respectfully calling out Felder, who was working as a UFC commentator at the time, as 'The Irish Dragon' interviewed the Kiwi following his win over Miller in April, 2018.
Felder was appreciative of the fact Hooker asked for the matchup to his face. And while the matchmakers had different plans back then, the stage is now set for an entertaining clash with the chance for the winner to move into the top five of the stacked division.
Felder is a natural striker with an exciting style emanating from black belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Karate.
Owner of four UFC post-fight bonuses, the 35-year-old has defeated several notable lightweights, including Vick, Charles Oliveira and, most recently, Edson Barboza, who handed Hooker his only defeat in the division at the end of last year.
"We are thrilled to return to Auckland with our third live UFC event" said David Shaw, UFC senior vice president, international and content.
"New Zealand is a hot market for UFC, led by the success of new unified middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, but also the likes of Dan Hooker and Kai Kara-France. Our Kiwi fans are some of the most passionate in the world and we can't wait to put on a great show for them on Sunday, February 23."