UFC Fight Night: John Hathaway ready to take on Dong Hyun Kim in Macau
James Dielhenn speaks to John Hathaway as the British fighter prepares for his first UFC main event.
Last Updated: 27/02/14 11:21am
A diagnosis of ulcerative colitis caused a 17 month lay-off but his recuperation to fight Dong Hyun Kim on March 2 at Fight Night: Macao has defied medical opinion.
Hathaway recalled: "My doctor said, 'you may want to think about changing your profession'," Hathaway recalled about the beginning of his painstaking recovery.
"It's a big strain on life but you have to listen to your body."
The 26-year-old welterweight's career was interrupted when symptoms first emerged when training for a fight.
"Two and a half years ago, I was building up to one of my fights and I was getting really ill. The more I trained, I made it worse, so I had to pull out of a fight.
"A year and a half ago, when I was booked [to fight Erick Silva] I had a flare-up.
"I tried to take my normal medication and ease off training but the symptoms got worse. It wasn't going to clear up without stopping," he regretfully sighed.
The dedication that took a rugby-playing boy from the idyllic, seaside town of Hove into the world's most testing combat arena was reapplied to overcoming his crippling bowel illness.
The journey from a patient's seat in a pessimistic doctor's surgery to standing, fists-clenched, in the Octagon is impressive but the biggest test will be looking back across the cage at him when the bell rings.
"[Ulcerative colitis] is a life test. It's not competition. This fight will be the biggest of my life so far," Hathaway assured about Kim.
The South Korean judo expert "Stun Gun" is coming off a career highlight knock-out and Hathaway will be travelling into unknown territory for his maiden headline occasion. But despite UFC London occuring just a week later, Hathaway would prefer to have his name in lights around Macau.
"Going away and competing makes it a big deal, you can't pass up these opportunities."
Defending Kim's judo throws - a traditionally Eastern art which would delight the home crowd - is key to ensuring Hathaway's return isn't spent on his back.
"Staying out of the clinch with Kim is a great priority," he admitted.
"I've been working on some things to break out of the clinch. My movement and striking have come on a lot. I'm going to be able to hit him.
"Obviously the lay-off has made this more important and I'm looking forward to it more."
The rebuilding process has occurred in doctor's surgeries and gymnasiums so far and required a lifestyle overhaul to accomodate an illness that will never leave Hathaway, but nor will it overcome him. Not until Saturday in a faraway land will that process be complete.