John Hathaway aspires to be the premier welterweight in the UFC. Yet the former semi-pro rugby player could do without the notoriety that would likely come with ascension.
“I don’t ever get recognized too much” in public, said the exceptionally modest and reserved British fighter. “I don’t mind not getting recognized. This is just the person I am. My family and my parents brought me up that way. My dad is a very hardworking, humble kind of guy. He started off working as a boiler repair guy, which is like central heating in the states. My father wound up owning the company and running a lot of the boiler services for the county. So I’ll always be a fairly nice, humble guy with a level head on me. But competing hard will show me in the best light.”
Just 23 years old, Hathaway has the promising look of a fighter who will someday join Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy as the best British MMA has to offer. But to continue on that path he must make amends for a setback last October, where he dropped a unanimous decision to Xtreme Couture grappling ace Mike Pyle. It marked the first defeat of Hathaway’s 15-fight career and he is eager to rebound against Kris McCray, his March 26 opponent at UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle, Wash.
“The loss helped motivate me for this camp,” Hathaway said. “Initially it was quite devastating. My hat is off to Mike Pyle, he came in and had a great gameplan on the night. As for Kris, he’s coming down in weight and he’s a good strong athlete with a high standard of wrestling. Wrestling is probably his strongest point but he throws very hard punches. I think he’ll probably try to catch me with a big punch or kick as well.”
McCray (6-2), who trains with the likes of UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie, is a physical specimen with a knack for slamming and submitting foes. He is a quick worker, finishing four of his fights in under a minute.
“We didn’t change up anything for this camp. We just worked on some weaknesses and holes in my game,” said Hathaway, who trains with ZT Fight Skool and London ShootFighters in London. “I’ve trained a couple of times over in the States, but London ShootFighters has the best coaches for my style. I have everything I need to succeed so I have no need to change anything at the moment. I stayed fit and healthy during the entire camp. I’m coming in real strong, I think.”
Hathaway, 4-1 in the UFC, hopes to regain the momentum he gained last year when he scored a huge upset over Diego Sanchez. It was a one-sided affair, with the much larger Hathaway surprisingly outwrestling a fighter who once earned a high school state wrestling title in New Mexico. The victory exemplified the growing trend of British fighters whose once-subpar wrestling skills have grown leaps and bounds.
“It’s just hard work and dedication,” Hathaway said. “Wrestling is a massive area of the game. There are American wrestlers helping out and top European wrestlers (to train with in England). It’s just knowing what we need to work on and working on it. As far as straight wrestling, I’m not amazing, but I seem able to put it together in MMA.”
A relatively big 170-pounder, Hathaway said he easily “walks” around near 200 pounds. He surmises he would weigh even more if he lived in the United States.
“I love the lifestyle out here,” said Hathaway, who arrived in Seattle last week and has been staying busy watching movies (“Tombstone” and “Blow,” and visiting aquariums and science fiction museums). “Everything is bigger in America and the food is quite good. God knows what weight I would be to if I lived out here.”
As for his fight with McCray, Hathaway – true to himself – declined to predict a definitive outcome, saying “I’m just predicting an exciting fight for both of us. We’re both going to lay it all on the line.”
Hathaway Hoping to Be the Best
“I’m just predicting an exciting fight for both of us. We’re both going to lay it all on the line.” - John Hathaway