Tried and tested, Andrew De-Vent welcomes retirement bout versus David Round this weekend

As recent as ten years ago, MMA in the UK, more so in the North West, was a very primitive, underground sport that wasn’t the easiest to get inside the walls of. The English focus was still on fellow combat sports in boxing, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

For Andrew De-Vent (15-10), it was much more the latters than the former that took a shine to him. If there’s one thing that De-Vent has showcased in his career, it has been his aggression and it wasn’t until a close friend’s insistent persuasion that he truly realised he could maximise his aggressive output.

“I was on the Thai boxing circuit back in the day with the Fight Factory in Stretford,” De-Vent explained. “There was this young lad called Chris came along, a good friend of mine. He used to work in MMA and I’d been a fan of it having seen it around, but never fancied getting involved in it because, me being a striker at the time, being held down and elbowed in the face never appealed to me. It wasn’t my cup of tea.

“Insistent on getting me involved. Chris would say ‘get down to Manchester Ground & Pound, it’s a really good gym. They’ve got it all there. It will really suit you. I think you could be a champion in it and do really well.’

“Eventually, I agreed and went down on a wrestling drill session, but was told to bring all my gear which I found funny considering it was to be a wrestling class. I walk through the door – oh my god. You talk about animals; these guys were next level. Cauliflower ears, broken noses with blood and snot on the walls. It was a proper sight. They were well known and had a lot of fighters smashing the scene up and down the country.”

Andrew met Ozzy Haluk and Danny Rogerson – both running Manchester Ground & Pound at the gym at the time. As per every session, De-Vent proceeds to warm up and what he thought to be a fundamental wrestling session was far from its actuality. Light bulbs of curiosity went off in the mind of De-Vent, as he was told to throw his full gear on. What he thought was going to be a drilling session turned out to be full blown sparring. It was here that MMA’s gritty nature introduced itself to ‘The Lions Paw.’ A passion sparked, shaping the coming years.

“I’m punching and kicking the legs out of their guys in a pure striking battle,” Andrew told. “All of a sudden, the coaches shout ‘Right, MMA sparring now.’

“Immediately, I got my arse handed to me. Everyone in all shapes and sizes were giving it to me. I was gassing, I got choked out and smashed in. At the end of the session, Ozzy pulled me aside, was` very complimentary and asked to train me in MMA as they thought I could go far.

“I went back to thai boxing and it wasn’t the same for me. I had began to love MMA. It felt like an action movie because it was just non-stop. I really wish I’d have started ages ago when Chris asked me the first time.”

And so it began. De-Vent’s journey from novice to MMA debutant was twelve months, leading to his first fight, debuting in Wales versus Greg Turley.

“I won that fight by ground and pound in the second round. I trained again for a while before my next fight came along on the first GPUK show – Ross Pointon’s show. I beat Ian Thomas on there, going 2-0 at semi-pro.

“From there, I turned professional. I returned to GPUK and fought the belt in my pro debut, beating Paul Hopkins by ground-and-pound and it took off from there on a crazy ride.”

After a dominant start in the professional rankings, Andrew returned to Manchester for his second outing. July 23rd, 2010. The then-welterweight was set for action on Manchester’s premier domestic show, UCC at the HMV Ritz against fellow Mancunian Leigh Cohoon. Two men cut from similar cloth. So soon into his run, not even Andrew expected this to be a fight; a rivalry that would become infamous in that very venue for a long, long time.

“When I fought on GPUK, it was an absolutely buzzing atmosphere,” De-Vent reminisced. “It was packed. Fighting Ian Thomas, who was a bit of a hometown hero known by everyone, it was hammered.

“Fighting at the Ritz in Manchester, though – it was different. It was the craziest atmosphere I’d ever faced. There was a lot of hype for that fight. We even had a column in the Manchester Evening News about it.

“I fought Leigh Cohoon, who was another hometown superstar, fighting out of Stalybridge and always brought an army of support with him against a south Manchester boy in me. Leigh and I both had fearsome reputations in fighting around Manchester. We were tough kids from the street.

“I trained hard for that fight and Leigh beat me on the night,” ‘The Lions’ Paw’ told. “It was back and forth for however long it lasted before I got caught in an inverted triangle choke. I was absolutely heartbroken to lose that one. It was after that loss that I started looking all over for other gyms to train at to learn as much as I could. It was a bit of a wake up call.

In the meantime, Andrew impressively put the initial loss to Cohoon behind him, bouncing back with a win over Ant Davies on UCC 3 in Blackpool a few months later. After scoring the TKO victory over Ant, Andrew received a phone call from UCC promoter Danny Hornsby, informing De-Vent that he had what, at the time, was presented as an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ to the south Manchester man.

“He told me Leigh Cohoon was going to be fighting on UCC 5 and that his opponent had pulled out,” Andrew revealed. “Danny asked me if I fancied a second crack at the whip. Instinctively, I took it. I was in.

“I had another great camp and focused more on striking than anything in this camp. My abilities in comparison to the first fight had improved massively and shown as we went five rounds in the rematch. Despite doing plenty of MMA rounds and maintaining strong levels of cardio, I planned to keep it on the feet with him. Looking back, I don’t even remember going to the floor once in twenty-five minutes.

“In the end, I lost by unanimous decision. Funnily enough, on the night, we were only supposed to fight three five minute rounds but with the fight going the way it was, Danny Hornsby just let the fight go another two rounds.

“I’ve watched it back a few times over the years and I still think there’s a case to be made in my favour, but it’s one of them. Leigh’s a great kid and a good friend now. We had a great rivalry while it lasted, but the memories were great and the Ritz will always be remembered for that.”

Despite coming out of the Cohoon bouts unsuccessfully, De-Vent had made a name for himself amongst the north west’s top welterweights. Being only 2-2 at the time, fights with prospects presented themselves and, as Andrew was seemingly managing his own fighting career, he took each and every bout given to him. Reminiscing on the decision, Andrew feels those opportunities may have been too much too soon.

“I went straight into fights with up-and-coming talent like Avi Jack and Gavin Sterritt,” Andrew said. “Losing to them both in the first round. With the Avi fight, I was talked into it and shouldn’t have been in it on three weeks’ notice. I’d been out for some time enjoying my life and had no business being in there that night. Really, I was just training for training’s sake. Nothing intense, but just keeping loose and active.

“My coach at the time gets a phone call from Darren Sherlock of Fight Ikon, asking if I’ll fight Avi Jack. My coach says yes immediately, when really I shouldn’t have been in there. I went through with it and that fight really hurt me. I thought, ‘What the f*ck have I done?’ I was really angered.

“I think that was something in my early career, in those losses, I didn’t have someone there to tell me off and say ‘Andy, what are you doing?’ rather than being persuaded to take fights. It drove me to reassess my path because I’m no bum. I’m no man’s cannon fodder. I needed to change it around.

“I took some time off and started training with serious fighters and started to turn it around, bit by bit. It wasn’t nice what happened to me with Avi, because someone pulled me aside and told me there was a banner in the gym of Avi knocking me out and it upset me as I thought it was naughty, but motivated me to get an eventual rematch to show it was a fluke and nothing more.”

In December of 2011, De-Vent found himself back on UCC. This time, under an eight-man tournament format. A tournament which hosted veterans such as Chris Rice, Shaun Lomas and prospects in Pavel Doroftei and UFC welterweight Danny Roberts.

Heading into the tournament, De-Vent took his training to Gambia – the land which birthed his infamous moniker – in preparation for whatever may come in the tournament. With the draw of potential opponents not known until the day of the weigh-in, De-Vent remained an underdog. With the odds against him, Andrew feels this is the night in which the threat of ‘The Lions’ Paw’ was truly realised.

“I think I announced myself to the top guys after the UCC: X-Fighter tournament when I got the nickname ‘The Lion’s Paw’ after my trip to Africa to train,” De-Vent opined. “I knew I had to knuckle down put the work in.

“In that tournament, nobody gave me a chance. I fought John Santry and Chris Rice on the night. I retired in the final as I’d had two wars, fought over twenty minutes and my feet were smashed in. I had nothing more to prove in that tournament. I would’ve fought the winner Pavel Doroftei in the final, but he’d ripped Danny Roberts’ knee up in just over a minute and knocked his other opponent out in about thirty seconds, so he was far fresher than I was.

“It was not after that that I started to go on a tear and beat guys like Andrew Punshon, Alex Minogue, Shaun Lomas in a right tear up. I really think that when I was given the ‘Lion’s Paw’ name by the chief of the island I was on in Gambia, I believe I was blessed by it. The first I time I fought under that name was on the X-Fighter and look how that turned ever since.”

Throughout his early career up until the X-Fighter tournament, many folks knew of the power that Andrew held in his fists. His striking was not one to be taken lightly. One skillset that had escaped him for the longest time, though, was a wrestling prowess. With an eventual asset that would see De-Vent soar, he owes it all to one man.

“For so long, my brother told me about Ali Arish and going to train with him, but I never really listened,” the now-middleweight entailed. “I liked doing jiu jitsu, but wasn’t a fan of wrestling. I enjoyed standing and banging. Eventually I met Ali and things started to turn around as our friendship grew.

“People always complimented on how my wrestling got better, but you’ve got to go back a bit. For the first two years, Ali absolutely terrorised me. I was a punchbag to him. I learned off him through grinding in those sessions and taking them beatings. He toughened me up and brought my mindset to a new level. He’s a great guy, but there’s no messing with him. He made me the wrestler I am today.

“It was just the missing link I needed to help elevate me. Working with Ali and going to other gyms, especially ASW with Darren Morris. His wrestling and catch wrestling was perfect for me, but so hard.”

What’s very poetic about the career of Andrew De-Vent is the rise from an unknown, taking every opportunity despite the challenge or outcome, to a contender who still had many doubters each step of the way, to a champion on different levels in different regions.

After avenging his early loss to Avi Jack in devastating fashion, De-Vent’s momentum rocketed him to title contention; his first major title shot in some time after another opportunity presented itself due to a pullout. The opportunity: a title fight on Made4TheCage versus Andrew Punshon. After taking that opportunity with both hands, everything else began to unfold.

“Many people still saw me as that striker and didn’t know that I was training at ASW with guys like Lee Chadwick, Mike Wilkinson, Marc Diakiese,” Andrew stated. “They have a saying at ASW; ‘As I walk through the valley of the shadow of ASW, I shall fear no heelhooks or leg locks.’

“Once I beat Punshon for the title, everything else opened up for me again. BAMMA came knocking, asking me to fight Harry McLeman which meant a lot to me. I never thought I’d get on a good show like that. I had a hiccup on that show and lost the decision.

“Luckily I was given another chance after a good performance the first time around, back in Manchester versus Roggy Lawson. Roggy was a striker on a string of knockout wins and, again, I think everyone thought I was just going to be a striker in there with him, forgetting what kind of fighter I now am. The Warehouse was rocking that night and that win gave me a lot of momentum.

“Another opportunity presented itself to me when Chris Fields pulled out of the fight with Conor Cooke and I stepped in to fight for the Lonsdale title on my birthday. To go through the ranks, up and down, to then win a Lonsdale title, nobody can take that away from me.

“Losing against Cheick Kone for the world title was a set back, but not one I fret over. He was the better man and I still had my gold.”

“I look a life and measure a person in how they respond to situations and happenings. I fought Paul Byrne right after that loss to Kone and made a statement in under a minute in Paul’s backyard. He wasn’t on my level and the 3Arena in Dublin was silenced. You could hear pin drop.”

Following his destruction of Paul Byrne, BAMMA offered De-Vent a second chance at a world middleweight title against then-reigning champion John Phillips. Planning on making the most of a rare second chance, Andrew returned to Vietnam to capitalise on his camp. On Andrew’s part, he was ready to make amends for the first chance he had squandered.

This time around, the fallout of the Mancunian’s second chance was out of his hands.

“I think I was the best I’d ever been at that point,” De-Vent aired. “I was training with Korea Top Team out there and had an amazing camp.

“I came back and made championship weight easily. John was late to the weigh-in and missed weight by a large number. His coach John Kavanagh apologised to me about it, which I understood. The story was that he’d already been and lost nine or ten pounds the night before, so how overweight he was the day prior I have no idea.

“If they’d have let BAMMA know weeks prior to the fight, something could’ve been arranged or I could’ve had another opponent. BAMMA sent me back up to my room after the fight and I was obviously fuming about it. It’s possible it could’ve been a ploy and that John’s camp thought I’d just fight him anyway given my nature, which I did in turn say, ‘Fuck it, I’ll fight him.’

“Jude and other officials told me to chill out and assess the issue,” Andrew continued. “I FaceTimed some team members and some I worked with in Vietnam. My coaches all said that, if you’re fighting professionally, you’ve got to think professionally. It would’ve been different had he been three pounds over, but twelve or thirteen pounds plus weight when he’s rehydrated? No chance.

“BAMMA then told me they were scrapping the fight anyway. I wanted to fight and I heard John’s training partner Charlie Ward was yelling to fight me instead, but given time restrictions it wasn’t possible. I’m gutted it didn’t work out that day, it could have been fun.”

With a bittersweet finish to his BAMMA journey, De-Vent began life as an ACB competitor. He began his tenure with a Manchester homecoming, defeating fellow veteran Danny Mitchell in under a minute – an outcome nobody expected so quickly.

The following bouts, resulting in potential health concerns, provided a long time out for the twenty-five fight veteran. With the damage that can come from a hefty fight career, the outcomes have left Andrew weighing up options.

“ACB was a fun time while it lasted,” Andrew stated. “After making a statement domestically against Danny Mitchell, the follow ups didn’t bode the way I wanted. I took the next fight with Arbi Agujev on a few weeks notice and I didn’t get out of first gear when it all came crashing down. With the quick stoppage, I felt I needed to response big and let ACB fans know I’m not a mug, so I got straight into another camp.

“During camp, things didn’t feel right with me. I was getting weird dizzy spells and thought it was due to possibly overtraining, fatigue or nutrition. I didn’t know that I’d had a head injury through the camp from the Agujev fight. Everyone knows that after the fight with Piotr Strus in Poland, I collapsed with major head trauma and was out for a long time.

“I’ve rested up ever since then and feel now is the time to come back.”

Throughout a career, mistakes are common and not everything works out the way you planned. That’s a given. A part of life. In the career of ‘The Lion’s Paw,’ Andrew humbly admits there are some regrets. As many opportunities as he had taken, some extra initiative would, he feels, would not have gone amiss.

“One has to be when The Ultimate Fighter came up and guys went up for it,” De-Vent confessed. “I remember Brendan Loughnane going for it, so I messaged the guys in charge to see if I could get a chance to show them what I’m about and they said they were aware of me. A few fighters I know who weren’t invited actually went to the tryouts and still got on the show and I think I should’ve done it. Maybe that’s what they wanted me to do. There could’ve been a different ending to that scenario.

“My other regret would not be pushing for that fight with John Phillips a bit more. A fire in me was telling me to go for it no matter what, but I held back. Our plan was very similar to his opponent’s on his UFC debut.

“I’ll say this for other fighters who are coming up and think they know it all and that they’re the bee’s knees – you’re not the bee’s knees. Listen to your coaches at all times. Don’t think you know it all. Don’t let your ego take over. Stay humble.

“Throughout a lot of my career, I didn’t have those coaches to guide me down a certain path. I was in and out of gyms and some of the coaches were daft and snaky. Things could’ve worked out a lot differently.”

This Saturday, Andrew De-Vent enters the cage for the final time in his career, completing the trilogy versus David ‘One More’ Round (15-20) in his hometown of Trafford, Manchester.

Since their first outing dating back to 2012 in Liverpool, the duo have since become very friendly allies. Ever since Andrew avenged his early loss just two years ago, Round has been chomping at the bit to settle the rubber match.

With their friendship and common ground in mind, Round received an invitation to De-Vent’s wedding earlier this year. On that very same RVSP, rather than ticking a box, David made a box of his own, asking for the rubber match to happen in Andrew’s final outing. After attending Andrew’s wedding, the former politely accepted, leading the culmination to this very weekend.

“My mindset is strong right now,” De-Vent asserted. “I think this is the longest lay-off I’ve ever had. I’ve been at HAMMA, coaching and sparring. I’ve still been working here and wrestling with Ali, Vahid and Amir in battles that would test King Kong and Godzilla.

“I’m focused and hungry. I’m no man’s cannon fodder and David’s going to find that out again. We’re friends, David and I. I talk to him often, but it’s different in there. It’s business and I’m getting that win no matter what. He says I’ve never thrown a kick in my life, but look at my fights. Look at the guys I’ve outstruck and beat with my hands and feet.

“If he wants me to stand and bang with him, I will do for three rounds and he’ll find out again. You don’t want to miss this fight. It’s my last one, done and dusted.”

As the defiant middleweight closes the curtains on his career this weekend, he has qualms about the legacy he has made for himself domestically. A fighter born from nothing into something. When it’s all said and done, De-Vent would simply like to be remembered as a ‘lad who tried.’

“I think I’m one of the best middleweights, if not one of the best fighters to ever come out of Manchester,” Andrew boasted. “In this era, if you look at my story and where I’ve come from, I’ve never given up and been able to travel the world in doing so – all because of my heart.

“I’d like to be remembered as a lad who tried. I might not have gotten to the UFC, but I’ve fought on some of the best shows the world has against some of the best fighters on offer. Regardless of what can be say, I’m a legend of the Manchester scene and I’d like that to be remembered as I help the next generation take over. I’m 40-years-old now. The last ten years, where have they gone? I don’t know. A big thanks to all who’ve supported me.

“I changed my life through MMA. Now my next chapter will be changing other men and women’s through this game.”