Gary’s a champion inside and outside the ring
He may be a flyweight champion in the ring, but Forth Valley College student Gary Priestly, is also proving to be a heavyweight academic champion outside of it.
The professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and father of two from Alloa, has just recently claimed his second North American Grappling Association (NAGA) belt in the under 60kg Expert Division, but is also gearing up to commence studying for additional credits in Sports Psychology at FVC – at the same time as he starts his second year in his HND Fitness, Health and Exercise course!
Gary (34), who is also proficient in kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing and Jujitsu, defeated the well-respected Jujitsu black belt Trevor Birmingham at one of the world’s biggest submission grappling events at the annual NAGA competition held in London on Saturday 13 April. This title adds to the one he won last year at the same event.
During his career he has finished second in a European Championship and been in the ring for Ju Jitsu bouts with some of the world’s top UFC fighters. Gary is now hoping that his professional fighting training and competitive career will benefit from his joint focus on his academic career.
Very respectful of the discipline and responsibilities instilled in martial arts, Gary is a great believer in putting something back into the sport and regularly takes classes and workshops at the FVC Falkirk Campus, where he trains school pupils who attend on the school-link programmes.
He said: “I like working with these 14 year-old kids at the college as I see a lot of myself in them when I was their age. Like many of them, school was not for me. But I think through the training sessions I am starting to get through to them. My advice to them is to never give up, even in their darkest hour they can still find a light and change their lives around for the better.
“I might not have had the maturity I needed when I was younger, but coming to college has really helped me focus on what I want to do and I love studying for my HND in Fitness, Health and Exercise.
“As Forth Valley College have been very supportive, I have even looked into starting another unit in Sports Psychology along with my HND studies.”
Chris Horne, Curriculum Manager in FVC’s Department of Care, Sport and Construction, said: “It’s really great to see Gary working with the schools pupils as they get so much out of the experience and really enjoy the training sessions. So much so, we have even had some of the pupils apply for our full-time courses as a direct result of this.”