‘Docs said I can’t fight after intestine removal but I’m back after eight years’

John Hathaway was told by doctors that his career was over following the removal of his entire large intestine – but he is back in MMA following a 3,150 day hiatus.

The Brighton-born former UFC star won 17 of his 19 professional MMA bouts between 2006 and 2014 but was forced to take an extended break from the sport he loves due to complications from inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis.

Now 35, welterweight Hathaway has agreed a deal with OKTAGON following unwavering support from his former UFC employers and will return against Andre Dede in Frankfurt at Oktagon 36 this weekend.

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"My initial doctors and gastroenterologist doctors basically said I wasn't going to compete again. They said it was kind of over," Hathaway told Daily Star Sport during his first MMA fightweek for almost a decade.

"My surgeon was okay with it, I told him I was getting all three surgeries done so I can go back internal rather than having an external stoma and he said he could do that.

"He was a great surgeon, one of these guys who you trust, he was fully confident and on board and said he would get it done for me. He obviously saw the determination I had."

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Hathaway played as open-side flanker for local rugby team Hove RFC before pursuing a career in MMA after watching UFC on television, making his professional debut in 2006.

Ten consecutive victories including six first-round finishes caught the eye of UFC bosses who handed him a four-fight deal which brought another four triumphs.

Having been edged out by Mike Pyle by decision in 2010, Hathaway bounced back with three wins to take his record to 17-1 before a spinning elbow KO defeat to Dong Hyun Kim which has given the Brit extra motivation to return.

Having been forced to withdraw from a fight against Gunnar Nelson back in 2015, Hathaway underwent a total of three surgeries including the fitting and removal of a stoma, taking the past two years to build up his strength.

He said: "I competed with it for a couple of years, it was kind of on and off and would flare up intermittently. After I had the last fight it kept reoccurring a lot more frequently."

Having weighed up his options, Hathaway opted to have his entire large intestine of 4.4lbs removed from his body.

He said: "The entire affected area has just been removed. I've not had any problems and I'm back to normal. Good shots are going to put you down whether you've got a large bowel or not."

Despite seeing his physical condition deteriorate and being warned over a potential return by a a handful of medical experts, Hathaway's commitment to return saw him stay in the USADA testing pool for his entire intermission.

A lesson in perseverance, Hathaway speaks with self-assurance ahead of his MMA return having not considered for a second that his 2014 defeat would be his final professional bout.

He said: "We've been trying to organise the fight for a while. The reaction has been interesting and people have realised it's been quite a hard thing to go through.

"I think anyone with the right determination can get through this and so many people have reached out to me on Instagram having had hard times and got through.

"They are not necessarily fighters just normal people. It's nice to see the journey being talked about."

Watch John Hathaway take on Andre Dede on OKTAGON 36: Frankfurt on October 15 which also features Germany's MMA star Christian Eckerlin on OKTAGON.TV here.


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