by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com

John Hathaway is riding high, still undefeated in his professional MMA career with a 14-0 record, coming off an impressive destruction of “Ultimate Fighter Season 1” winner Diego Sanchez. He is now lined up against Xtreme Couture product Mike Pyle at UFC 120 in what could be the sleeper bout of the evening.

Hathaway is a fighter who, despite his achievements since joining the ranks of the world’s most prominent MMA promotion, remains grounded and down-to-earth, never losing sight of who he is or getting caught up in the smack talk so common to fighters in today’s promo hungry world.

John Hathaway and Diego Sanchez at UFC 114

John Hathaway and Diego Sanchez at UFC 114

“I don’t get recognized too much. I am still coming up through the ranks, so that allows me a certain level of anonymity. There have been a couple of the times in the gym when people recognize me, but that is an MMA specific environment,” he explained, although quick to point out that he likes mixing with the people who watch him fight.

“I never wanted that super-attention, but I love speaking or having a picture taking with the fans. My main thing is to train first; I am nothing if I am not winning fights and training hard.”

It seems that his opponent is cut from a different cloth though, keen to try and get a rise out of the Briton with comments in the press about who Hathaway has fought, size comparisons, and the state of British people’s teeth. The London Shootfighter isn’t biting; in fact, he agrees on some points.

“To be honest it doesn’t affect me at all. I don’t need that to motivate me to fight. I guess it’s just for his own use or he genuinely believes what he is saying. I am prepared for anyone. He says some funny stuff though, especially about the teeth, although to be fair some Americans have bad teeth as well,” he stated with a laugh.

“I always love listening to people smack talk. I love listening to Dan Hardy on the countdown shows or his blogs. It’s just how certain people sell fights, but I don’t think I will be doing a Chael Sonnen anytime soon. It’s just not how I do things. I loved his interviews, but I just try to be as professional as I can about it all.”

Looking back at his last fight against Diego Sanchez, the Brighton based fighter is quick to pay props to the former lightweight by somewhat glazing over his own achievements, saying that maybe he caught Sanchez in a period of transition. It’s quite a frank and refreshing view.

“I try to come out every time as a complete evolution. In certain ways, for the welterweight limit, I am one of the bigger guys, with age I will get bigger and stronger as well. But with Diego, it was his first fight back at welter and maybe he was still adapting. I guess I was lucky to get him on his way back up before he was fully adapted.”

He does however concede that maybe Sanchez should have stayed at lightweight, but not because he doesn’t respect the fighter.

“I look forward to seeing his next fight. He was doing so well at lightweight. I don’t know why he switched. He only lost one fight there and I think maybe he should have had a few other fights in that division.”

He is aware that with such a high-profile win people will be gunning for him, and Mike Pyle represents the first of those challenges. Hathaway certainly isn’t taking him lightly.

“I think he is an incredibly dangerous opponent, one of the top people in the game and I am looking forward to the fight. He is very experienced and his jiu-jitsu is incredibly good. I have got to be very careful as there is a big danger operating in his guard, but if I stay disciplined and tight I can be effective.”

The common criticism currently being leveled at British fighters is that there is a dearth of good wrestling camps, but Hathaway is a product of one of the best wrestling camps in the country and he is confident that he will be operating on an even playing field with the American.

“I think every U.K. MMA fighter is working hard on their wrestling right now, bringing a lot of European and Americans over, but we have a lot of high level-wrestlers here in camp with Alexis (Demetriades) and Paul (Ivens) leading the way. We also have some top Europeans, a slick Nigerian guy, and some good guys from Iran and Chechnya. I am not worried about that part of the fight.”

What he is aware of is that they are of similar build and that presents new challenges for him in the Octagon, but nothing he hasn’t faced already in training.

“He is a good sized welterweight. That’s a new kind of challenge for me. It won’t be drastic for me (though) and we should be about the same size come fight time. I trained with a lot of guys his size, ABA Boxers and worked with his reach, but ultimately, I think you will see a lot of ground and pound in this fight.”