Every time Chris Duncan steps into the cage, the memory of his mum is clear in his mind. 

It was, after all, his mum who would sneak him away to boxing classes when he was younger against the wishes of his grandparents, and it was his mum who spotted early on that her son had a talent for fighting and supported him all the way. 

It is this, then, that made it so painful when she was snatched away from him in 2014 as he was on the verge of making his MMA debut. 

Duncan woke up on the morning of the weigh-in for his first-ever competitive MMA fight and as soon as his grandparents walked into his room, he knew something was wrong. No one, though, could have predicted what they were about to reveal; his mum had been murdered.  

And so, at the age of just 21, Duncan had to come to terms with the most earth-shattering of events. For many, the thought of competing in the immediate aftermath of such a bombshell would have been too much but for Duncan, he knew it was something he had to do for the memory of his mum. And from that point on, something changed inside Duncan. 

“From that moment, it was like a tipping point for me and I decided to focus just on myself,” he said.  

“Something like that happening makes you realise life can be ripped away from you in a second and that was really scary for me.  

“So it actually kept me motivated and focused during my whole amateur career and right through till now. 

“My mum was a great fan of mine – she never pushed it on me but she knew I could fight. So I feel like the stars have aligned and this was meant for me - it’s why I carry a pendant on a chain with her fingerprint and her wedding ring and wear it the week of the fight. It gives me a little bit of strength knowing she’s there. She’s the main reason I do this.” 

This drive has taken Duncan to where he is now, becoming the MMA giant, Bellator’s, newest Scottish signing. The Stirlingshire man made his debut for the promotion last month in Italy, defeating Iamik Furtado in an impressive performance to take his professional record to 7-0 and ensure he is becoming one of the most talked-about talents in the sport.  

This is, though, quite a departure from his previous career. Duncan began his working life as a shepherd and, for a while, believed that was where his calling in life was.  

He is not, he says, wildly academic but after becoming a prize-winning sheep handler, he began to realise the shepherding life, which involved working almost non-stop for six days, getting drunk on a Saturday night, feeling rough on a Sunday and then beginning the cycle again may not be for him and decided to give MMA a real go.  

It was a gamble that is beginning to pay off in impressive fashion and while he still retains his day-job of personal trainer, he is quick to admit that there is pressure on him to succeed in MMA, particularly on the back of the recent news that he and his girlfriend are expecting their first baby in the spring of next year. 

“There is pressure on me and I need to do well in this – there’s no two ways about it,” the lightweight said.  

“I’ve committed my life to this now – I cannot not do well. I have no other skill set other than being able to fight. Yes, I’m a personal trainer but being a personal trainer is not a life-long job, nor has it been a long-term goal for me. I’ve put everything into this so I’ve no option other than to be good. 

“Having a baby on the way just gives everything I do another layer. I’ve already changed the focus of my life – I’m more focused on making money and supporting my family already so this has just taken things up another level.” 

Duncan may still be fresh from his first Bellator victory but already he has turned his attention to returning to the cage in the near future, ideally to take on superstar of the sport, Irishman Kiefer Crosbie. However, despite Duncan’s enthusiasm to make the fight happen, he is unconvinced Crosbie will risk losing to the Scot. 

“I’d definitely like to fight again by the end of the year – I’d like to get back in there as soon as possible,” he said.  

“I’d love to fight Kiefer in Dublin in that hostile environment and show all his fans that I’ll go into his back garden and wipe the floor with him. 

“He’s got this persona and walks about like he owns the joint so I’d like to put his eye in check. If he wants a real fight, come and fight me. Let’s see if he takes the bait – I don’t think he will and I think his team around him will try and protect him because he’s a massive name and so I don’t think he’s got the balls to take the fight. 

“But I’m not scared of taking anyone on – if you are, you’re in the wrong game.”