A new direction for Grimsby cage star James Bateman
GRIMSBY fighter James Bateman has retired from professional action after seven years on the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) circuit.
Citing mixed reasons for the decision – namely financial and narrowly missing out on the sport's bigger events – the Fight Ministry man will now take up a coaching role at the club.
The 28-year-old welterweight, who twice came close to reaching the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – in 2009 and 2012 – bows out with a record of seven wins and one defeat.
Bateman told the Telegraph: "It is time for me to take up some new challenges.
"As it stands now, I'm just not interested in competing anymore. I just wanted to get into coaching and start living a comfortable lifestyle.
"It's hard work cutting weight all the time. But, it's not about injury – I have been training for a while now and it doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere.
"I'm really excited by the coaching side. Some of the stuff I can do can now be passed onto the next generation of guys – fighters like Jack Grant and Andy Craven.
"It's quite interesting because you see things differently. You can have your own input for each fighter."
Aside from guiding the next crop of Fight Ministry stars, Bateman is hoping to test himself by taking on a new profession, though he wasn't drawn into what that may be.
Indeed, the former professional could even make a shock return to the ring – as unlikely as that is at this stage.
Bateman added: "In terms of this country, I have done most of the things you can do – not getting picked for the UFC was very disappointing. Having seen some of the guys that made it, from competing against them in training, I know I'm as good as them, if not better.
"Even so, I'm the sort of guy that says 'never say never'."
Despite a glimmer of hope that Bateman may, in time, make a professional comeback, Fight Ministry coach Neal Lofts was frustrated by the decision.
Lofts said: "I was slightly disappointed when James said he wants to call it a day, but I do empathise with his reasons.
"I believe James was on the eve of something big this year, which could have culminated in him being signed to one of the big organisations.
"However, I am pleased that James has made it plain that he wants to remain an integral part of the Fight Ministry – I will be using his coaching skills. James had been with me from the start so he knows how I work. Having an extra coach will allow us to reach out to more fighters."