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MMA: Hathaway ‘starting over again’ at UFC Fight Night Macao

John Hathaway, 26, will be fighting in the Octagon for the first time in 18 months on Saturday.

John Hathaway will fight for the first time in 18 months at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Macao. Photo: SportAsia.

February 27, 2014: John Hathaway will look to make up for 18 long months out of the Octagon when the 26-year-old Englishman takes on leading welterweight contender Kim Dong-hyun in the headline clash at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Macao.

 

The nine-bout card at The Venetian’s Cotai Arena also features the first UFC heavyweight clash in Asia outside of Japan, as former NFL star Matt Mitrione (6-3) takes on fellow American Shawn Jordan (15-5). The finale of The Ultimate Fighter China television series is also part of the action, with Wang Sai taking on Zhang Lipeng in a three-round welterweight battle for a guaranteed ‘six-figure’ contract with the UFC.

 

Kim and Hathaway share top billing, although the Englishman accepts he’s perceived as the underdog as he competes for the first time since September 2012, when ‘The Hitman’ recorded a third straight win following his only career loss.

 

A bout of ulcerative colitis prevented Hathaway from taking on Erick Silva last June and put the brakes on his fast rise up the welterweight ranks, but he believes he’s ready to cause an upset and get his career back on track.

 

“I had the flare-up before I was going to fight Erick Silva, so had to take some time out and let my body recover and get back to full health. Funnily enough, Kim beat Silva in his last fight, so that’s another good reason for us to compete against each other,” Hathaway said.

 

Hathaway works out ahead of his headline clash with Kim Dong-hyun at The Venetian.

‘The Hitman’ works out ahead of his headline clash with Kim Dong-hyun at The Venetian.

“I’m definitely perceived as the challenger, but I’m confident about the result. It has been a while since I competed, but I can’t wait to get back out and prove to everyone that I deserve to be up in the top spots.

 

“The time away has made me even more hungry for this type of competition and with an opponent like Kim, it’s one of those ones that you want to get up and train real hard and push yourself to the max each day.”

 

Hathaway has compiled an impressive record in the sport, with 17 wins offset by just one loss, but stresses that he needs to stop ‘Stun Gun’ on Saturday to push ahead in an increasingly competitive and open division.

 

“I feel like I’m starting over again because of the rapid change-up in the welterweight division, how many good fighters there are and yet there’s only one or two spots you can really go for. There’s so many of us at a really good level competing for it,” said the polite Englishman, who took up MMA in his late teens after focusing on rugby at school.

 

“I think this is the start of my way back up to it. I think 2014 is going to be a real active year for me. I’m going to keep my weight down and just keep ploughing out the fights and keep ploughing out the victories.”

 

Hathaway has had his eye on Kim ever since the pair were first scheduled to fight in 2010, before the Korean had to withdraw due to injury. The fighters have recently spent a lot of time together in cities across Asia for media engagements and Hathaway is  more aware than ever of the 32-year-old’s strengths.

 

“His grappling and his judo are his strongest points. Obviously he’s an incredible striker as well, but I think his main strength is his grappling,” Hathaway said. “He’s my height, my width – everything about us is pretty similar. He’s got an incredibly strong judo background, so it should be a really good fight.

 

Although a grappling specialist, Korean MMA pioneer Kim Dong-hyun has plenty of other attacking weapons, as evidenced by November’s knockout of Erick Silva.

Although a grappling specialist, Korean MMA pioneer Kim Dong-hyun has plenty of other attacking weapons, as evidenced by November’s knockout of Erick Silva.

“I think it’s a good fight for both of us. It’s a fight that was meant to happen and it’s always good to get those showdowns on when they’ve been planned before.”

 

Hathaway says he wasn’t surprised by Kim’s memorable knockout of Silva last November and said it didn’t change his impression of the Korean.

 

“I think his striking is definitely underrated and he’s got a lot more to show of it. Every UFC fighter is pretty well rounded and compete very well in every kind of aspect of fighting.”

 

One of Asia’s leading MMA practitioners, Kim agrees he’s a strong favourite in Macau, but is full of praise for his upcoming opponent, highlighting Hathaway’s tactical awareness and well rounded artillery.

 

“Looking at films of his past fights, he’s a great tactician and he comes in with great strategy. There’s really no weakness in him. It’s very difficult to try to find the weaknesses in him, so it has been pretty difficult to try to prepare for him,” said Kim, who has cut a relaxed figure this week.

 

“The betting odds are favouring me quite a bit, probably because John hasn’t fought for a long time. But you have to keep in mind that he has only lost once, so I’m taking nothing for granted. If I were to beat him, it would be just as sweet as the win over Erick Silva. This is a very important match for me.”

 

Mark Fischer (fifth right) flanked by VIPs and fighters ahead of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Macao.

Mark Fischer (fifth right) flanked by VIPs and fighters ahead of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night Macao.

Mark Fischer, Managing Director of UFC Asia, was confident of a big crowd at the Cotai Arena, which staged a nine-bout boxing event last Saturday.

 

“Tickets are moving fast and the event is heading for a sell-out. We’ve got some great talent, some great match-ups, a truly global card and a super exciting main event between Kim Dong-hyun and John Hathaway, a couple of top welterweights,” Fischer said.

 

“They’re really fighting to be in the top contender group in the UFC welterweight division, which is now a little bit more wide open with Georges St-Pierre taking a sabbatical.”

 

Celebrities expected to watch the action include Hong Kong movie star Nick Chung (Unbeatable), Chinese action movie star Wu Jing, The Ultimate Fighter China mentor Cung Le and American football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.

 

Tickets can be booked online at www.CotaiTicketing.com, www.HKTicketing.com, www.macauticket.com

 

For more information, visit: www.ufc.com

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