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John Hathaway made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut at UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland, but his unknown status made it barely memorable that he was even on the card.
Hathaway met Dubliner Tom Egan, a charismatic and colorful guy who was stealing the headlines. Hathaway, it seemed, was simply there because Egan needed someone to fight. But Hathaway surprised everyone when he dominated Egan and stopped him at 4:36 of the first round.
Following that debut, Hathaway defeated a pair of highly respected welterweights – the powerful Rick Story at UFC 99 and Paul Taylor at UFC 105 – and clearly has moved into the group of contenders at 170.
And it's obvious that Joe Silva, the UFC's top-notch matchmaker, likes what he saw of Hathaway, since he matched him with Diego Sanchez on the main card of Saturday's UFC 114 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Hathaway, a Londoner with a 12-0 record, was a bit stunned when asked to face Sanchez, one of the UFC's more high-profile fighters.
"I was happy and also surprised when I got the call to face Diego Sanchez," Hathaway said. "I didn't think I'd be given an opportunity to fight someone as high caliber and experienced as Sanchez this early into my UFC career. I still thought I'd have to take one or two more fights in Britain before I got the chance to fight a big-name like Sanchez in America.
"I was pleased to get the chance, though, as it presents me with a massive opportunity to score a big win and quickly further my career. Sanchez is also one of my favorite fighters to watch and he's the type of guy who is always involved in exciting fights. I'm looking forward to being involved in a fight with him."
Sanchez is moving back to 170 after competing at lightweight for nearly two years. He's a wrestler, and many Brits – Dan Hardy and Paul Daley notable among them – haven't fared well against wrestlers.
But Hathaway is convinced he'll more than hold his own.
"I definitely feel I'll be the physically stronger fighter in a few positions," he said. "I'm expecting to feel that bit stronger at certain points in the fights. I'm looking to beat him in the areas I know I carry an advantage in.
"I need to get on top of Sanchez in the stand-up, secure a takedown and then get on top of him on the ground. I'm looking to maintain control of him wherever the fight goes, and I feel I've got the ability and the strength to dominate him standing and on the ground. I'll have to combine both to get the win. From there I'll just look to beat him up and win every second and minute of the fight."
He's got a tough challenge in Sanchez, but Hathaway is a legitimate opponent and may turn out to be the best of the current crop of the British welterweights before it's all said and done.
With that, I'll respond to your questions and comments in this week's edition of the mixed martial arts mailbag.
Pompano Beach, Fla.
Keith, the situations are strikingly different. Daley hit a defenseless and unsuspecting man after their competition had ended. Jackson and Evans are simply talking. And while Dana isn't complaining about it, I guarantee you he hasn't had to encourage them to talk.
You're right in that he's gotten a lot of opportunities in key slots, Dale. But he's fought a lot of great competition and done well. Yes, he was drilled by Dan Henderson, but he wasn't the first and won't be the last to be knocked out by Hendo. If he loses to Dan Miller on Saturday, that would be three losses in four fights and I think he'd drop well back in the pecking order. But he's fought a lot of good fighters and provided some decent fights, so no problem here with where he's been placed thus far.
He's an interesting guy, to be sure, and that's not a line you hear often. It's easy to pat yourself on the back, but a lot harder to point out that you have much work yet to be done. Such an attitude will serve him well as he advances in his career.
Highland Park, N.J.
You asked an interesting question, Eluard. I think the biggest one I can think of came when Houston Alexander, who took the fight on about a week's notice, knocked out Keith Jardine in the first round at UFC 71. Tim Boetsch had about 10 days' notice and came in and stopped David Heath at UFC 81. Paul Daley was supposed to fight Brian Foster at UFC 103, but because of injuries moved up to face Martin Kampmann with 15 days' notice and knocked out Kampmann. And, of course, Georges St. Pierre found out on Thanksgiving Day that he was needed to fight Matt Hughes at UFC 79 on New Year's Eve and went on to win. I'd say Brilz has a shot. If he loses, it's not because of a lack of preparation time, but rather that Nogueira was the better man that night.
I think there will be more NFL players trying MMA, but I doubt you'll see many big names. They will have earned too much money and their bodies will have taken too much abuse to launch a professional fight career right afterward. But I think for certain that borderline guys who are still young when they're out of football will give MMA a chance.
Don may try MMA because he knows how to promote and he knows MMA is hot. But he's also nearly 80 years old and isn't going to be able to do it long, so I doubt he'll ever become a presence in the sport. But MMA doesn't need anyone from boxing to come to it to legitimize it. MMA is a perfectly legitimate sport on its own.
There are few better boxing coaches than Freddie Roach. He helped B.J. Penn a bit with his striking, but he didn't do much good for Andrei Arlovski. I don't think it will hurt Georges because he's just taking some pointers from Freddie that he'll try to incorporate into his game. Firas Zahabi is still his MMA coach and in charge of putting everything together.
- John Hathaway
- Paul Daley
- Diego Sanchez