Anwick student ends promising MMA career on a high note

James Gent.
James Gent.

University student James Gent has opted for academia over sport after deciding to turn his back on a career in mixed martial arts.

The Anwick student climbed into the ring for the final time earlier this month as he looks to pour all of his energies into the final year of his degree.

Gent had made an impressive start to his MMA career, winning his first four fights to earn a top-10 UK ranking before defeat to James Cox slowed the momentum last year.

But it was an upcoming dissertation deadline for his information management and business degree, as well as the serious process of career planning, which persuaded him to call it quits.

“The final year is the most important because it makes up 75 per cent of the degree class so I made a choice to focus all my efforts on my academic performance.

“Once university ends it feels like it’s time for a different chapter of my life, and I don’t see how MMA fits into that chapter.

“I have the self-awareness to know that I’ll never be good enough to go pro in the sport or reach a level where it’s a career.”

Gent, who won the highest-achieving student prize in the first two years of his degree, decided on a rematch with Cox for his swansong.

“I was very, very anxious going in the lead-up to the bout, worried about losing twice in a row to the same guy and going out on two losses,” he explained.

“But I had to take the risk to see if I could avenge the loss and go out on an important win for myself.”

After good preparation and training for the 58kg bout, a series of striking combinations were enough for the Lincolnshire fighter to clam the opening round in Birmingham.

Round two went even better, as Gent took his opponent down to the floor and kept him pinned there until the round ended.

“Round three was hard as Cox is tough as nails and never slows down,” he added.

“I had him reacting to my strikes so I threw a feint he tried to slip and he went straight into a headkick that put him out.”

The referee stopped the fight on a headkick knockout to send Gent out on a high.

But despite avenging the sole loss of his career and putting him back on an upward curve, there were no second thoughts about retirement.

“Between training and fighting you’re constantly rolling the dice when it comes to injury in both the body and mind,” he said. “It can happen in almost any sport, whether you’re eating hits when boxing in the gym or doing lots of headers in football, you’re accumulating small amounts of brain damage when you rattle your brain around.

“I guess I’m a bit lucky that I never broke anything or tore any muscles in training, and never got knocked out, so it makes sense to quit while you’re ahead instead of continuing to roll the dice.”