Gentleman John: ‘Hitman’ Hathaway gears up for UFC Fight Night Macao
- Updated: February 2, 2014
Focused on his first fight in Asia, clean-cut Englishman JOHN HATHAWAY talks to SportAsia about his welterweight clash with Korean ‘Stun Gun’ Kim Dong-hyun, the headline bout at UFC Fight Night Macao on March 1.
Well educated and well spoken, John ‘Hitman’ Hathaway is one of the few Englishman to make his mark in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
The 26-year-old’s broken nose may give him the look of a bouncer, but the injury was actually one of several sustained during his former rugby-playing days, which began while studying at Shoreham College, a private school in Sussex on England’s south coast.
However, since first coming across MMA (mixed martial arts) at the age of 16, Hathaway has dedicated himself to the fast-growing sport and the former fitness instructor is now fully focused on his first fight in Asia after quickly rising up the ranks.
One of a new breed of MMA fighter, Hathaway has been evenly schooled in the many martial arts that make up the sport to emerge as a true all-rounder, rather than merging into the sport from another discipline – like his upcoming opponent Kim Dong-hyun, a black-belt judoka.
Hathaway, standing six-foot one and weighing 170 pounds, will face one of his toughest tests yet when he takes on the Korean icon – who’s a similar height and weight to his opponent – in the headline welterweight bout at UFC Fight Night Macao on March 1, which will be held at The Venetian.
Other clashes on the card at Cotai Arena include Shawn Jordan and former NFL star Matt Mitrione (heavyweight), Ivan Menjivar and Hatsu Hioki (featherweight), and ‘Korean Bulldozer’ Nam Yui-chul and Kazuki Tokudome (lightweight), while the evening will also double as the finale of The Ultimate Fighter China television series.
The fast-talking Hathaway, who trains out of London Shootfighters in west London, believes he’s getting close to a shot at a UFC world title after losing only once in 18 MMA fights since the-then 18-year-old made his competitive debut in June 2006.
The Brighton-born bruiser has a 7-1 record in the UFC, making his mark with early victories over the likes of Rick Story, Paul Taylor and Diego Sanchez, and winning his last three fights following his only loss, to Mike Pyle in October 2010.
Kim (18-2-1), the first Korean to win in UFC, is also on a three-fight winning streak after the 32-year-old southpaw’s stunning one-punch knockout of Erick Silva on October 9. Hathaway, however, is hoping to land the final punch in Macau – just don’t expect any trash talking.
Interview with JOHN HATHAWAY
What’s your previous experience of Asia?
I’ve never fought in Asia before so it’s going to be a new experience for me and it’s going to be a good one. We went to Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong for promotional work around the fight, and I’ve visited Thailand and Indonesia before on holiday.
What have you heard about the Cotai Arena?
Obviously [Manny] Pacquiao fought there not so long ago. It’s a very big arena as well. I’m expecting there to be great crowds and a lot of people supporting MMA and the UFC.
And what about Macau?
I’ve heard it’s like the new Vegas. I’ve only spent one day there, so we didn’t have the chance to spend much time looking around. Obviously it was a Portuguese colony and I believe it was named Macau after the local sea goddess when the Portuguese first landed. Other than that, I’ve still got a little to bit to learn about the place. I’ll go there about 10 days to two weeks before the fight to get used to the time zone and probably the climate.
Had you met Kim before the promotion for this fight?
No. We were meant to compete against each other three years ago, but he actually picked up an injury so it’s good that the fight has come back around.
How have you both changed as fighters in those three years?
We’ve both improved a lot. His record has got a lot better and my record has got a lot better. His striking has improved a lot. He’s a great judoka player as well. He’s a tall southpaw, so it should be really interesting. Obviously I’d done a little bit of research on him last time, but not as much as I have done this time and as much as I’ll be doing over the next couple of weeks.
What do you think are his particular strengths?
He’s got great takedowns and he’s got very good top control. I think he’ll obviously be looking to strike with me initially, then get the take-down on me, get me on the ground and keep good control on top of me, then look for either submissions or ground-and-pound.
What are your main strengths?
I still think I have an advantage in stand-up. I’ve got good stand-up and I’ve got great get-ups as well, so I’ll be planning to not spend any time on my back and eventually I think I’ll be able to put him on his back and get off my strikes on the ground.
What’s your next target?
I’m looking for a title shot. We’re both about three or four fights away from getting into the title shot range, so we’re pretty close.
Where does the nickname ‘The Hitman’ come from?
I guess the nickname just comes from going in there and doing the job, just being very focused and dedicated to the sport; just going in there and making sure I win every time. It’s not actually about my punching, although I’m improving my striking all the time, just like the rest of my game. I’ve got a lot of great striking things going on, so you may well see a knockout in the next fight.
You’re one of only a few prominent English fighters in MMA. Why is that?
Yeah, there’s not too many, although there’s more and more of us. Michael Bisping’s probably the best known, Dan Hardy used to fight a lot and Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley has been competing a lot recently. We’re getting better at the sport. We’ve got a lot to learn, obviously. A lot of the Americans come from a wrestling background, so they’ve already got great basics, but we’re coming along a lot as a country in the sport.
How did you break your nose?
This is from rugby, actually. Both my ears and my nose were from rugby. I did my nose when I was 17. I had never broken it before then. I was covering my flyhalf from the flank position and I had to tackle one of the inside crash balls. It was a rainy day and I slipped just before I made the tackle and fell into a knee basically. It kind of went ‘into’ my head, in a way (laughs). You’d almost have thought it would be from MMA, but it’s from previous.
When did you get into MMA?
I started when I was about 16, 17. I just watched it on telly and instantly fell in love with it. I looked at the competitive side of it, was really intrigued by it and just took it from there, really. I found my local club and just moved up the ranks from then.
It was something really new back then. There was no one really doing it [in England]. I had a couple of friends who boxed for local clubs, but MMA was something really new and exciting, so I’m just glad the sport’s evolved and it’s come along really well.
What was the biggest challenge when you started training?
Initially, just learning so much. There are so many different aspects to the actual sport, from the ground-based stuff to the takedowns to the striking. It’s a constantly evolving sport so you’re constantly learning more and more things from it, so there’s always something new to learn every day.
Did you have any martial arts background?
No, I took it as a whole. I came to MMA as the sport in itself. I’m from a rugby background so I was fairly physically athletic. I just looked at it as a whole, as a sport in itself.
What was your rugby background?
I played for my local club (Hove RFC) and county (Sussex), and I played up through the ranks. I was an open-side flanker, so I like the physical stuff. I played with some great people. I played a lot with Adam Phillips, who played for my local club. His brother Ollie Phillips played for England Sevens and Newcastle Falcons (and was the 2009 IRB Sevens Player of the Year).
Today, James Haskell comes to our gym (London Shootfighters) a fair bit because he’s getting a bit more interested in MMA. He’s one of the big England rugby players at the moment.
Do you predict a long career in the sport?
I’m only 26 so I’m definitely improving. It’s a sport where you can actually compete until quite an old age, almost 40. You get a couple of people competing until about their mid-40s, but as long as you take care of yourself you can continue for quite a while.