It has taken much longer than John Hathaway expected. Nonetheless, the unexpected has been the norm for the previous eight years.
When John Hathaway left the UFC cage in Macau in March 2014, he was already thinking about how he might change and get better.
Hathaway, a 26-year-old from Brighton, England, was knocked out for the first time in his career in his first UFC big event, despite being hailed by many as the MMA future of his country. The knockout blow came courtesy of a Dong Hyun Kim spinning elbow, which ranks among his all-time best.
Research was initiated. Where does he need to improve? In what ways could he improve for the future? In the days, weeks, and months that followed, however, all of those concerns were put on the back burner.
His game’s flaws were minor in comparison to what was lurking in the shadows. His health was the last thing he expected to face, but it turned out to be his next and possibly biggest opponent.
“I thought I was going to be able to fix it quickly,” Hathaway said.
“I never thought it’d be eight years plus now. I didn’t think I was going to have all this time out and have to go through these things.”
“I kind of withered down over that whole time and lost all my strength and my athletic ability,” Hathaway said. “I’ve just kind of been getting that back over the last two years, really, and I’ve been getting back into combat.”
“I’ve got to do it – something I’ve wanted to do for eight years,” Hathaway said.
“It’s been driving me through. It’s something I’ve always loved doing since I was about 15. It’s been 20 years of just enjoying competing in combat sports.”
“I always felt, and I still feel like, I left in a way I don’t want to leave combat sports,” Hathaway said.
“I had to pull out just from illness. It doesn’t sit well with me. It’s taken a while for me to get myself back to being able to do everything to the level everything needs to be done at. But I’m back with it now.”
Hathaway’s name has been mentioned less frequently in MMA discussions ever since he took time off. After some time has passed and it becomes clear that Hathaway is still a part of the UFC’s U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing pool, discussions regarding him tend to emerge.
Hathaway is still under contract with the UFC despite his exceptional circumstances. Hathaway is being allowed and even encouraged by the promotion to get his fighting legs back under him with a few bouts in OKTAGON before he might return to the UFC. He will continue to be a part of the USADA’s doping control group.
“At least they know I’m still clean,” Hathaway said. “
“I guess if I’m performing and looking good, then they’ll pick me back up. … OKTAGON has been great. They’re giving me the chance. They’ve got some good guys in their welterweight division. I’ll look to compete against them and if I can do well against them, then I’ll step back into the UFC and see what I can do there.”
“I’ve always liked to be in the dark because I don’t know what my body is going to be like,” Hathaway said.
“It’s going to be nice to be like, ‘Yep. This is the date. You can watch it on pay-per-view for OKTAGON or you can go to the event and watch it live.’ … I’ve been wanting to say it. Like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be back eventually. I just don’t know when.’