The passing of one life and the imminent arrival of another are never far from Mark Ewen’s thoughts as he continues to push for acclaim and recognition in the ultra-competitive world of mixed martial arts.

A quiet but persistent clamour has been building around the 24 year-old for some time now, a development recognised by promotional giants Bellator who have just signed the Scot to an exclusive, multi-fight deal on the strength of only four professional bouts.

That investment is both in Ewen’s potential but also serves as an appreciation of his dedication to his craft just two years after leaving the amateur ranks. The Edinburgh-based fighter lives the life, training at least twice a day, six days a week. There is little time for anything else. “This is the lifestyle,” he confirms. “When I’m not training I actually feel lost.”

The only outside intrusion into that singular mindset comes in the form of family. And on that front motivation is not in short supply for the man who also counts footballer Marc McNulty as his brother-in-law. The recent tattoo Ewen had inked across his stomach depicts an outline of a map of Africa, a nod to his Nigerian-born father, with a child prominent in the centre. That carefree, dreadlocked young boy is Ewen’s brother, in a childhood photo, who would later be encumbered by muscular dystrophy leading to his sad and premature death just two years ago.

Casey is never far from Ewen’s thoughts and every step he takes in his MMA journey is accompanied by memories of his big brother and the braveness and stoicism he showed throughout his final years.

“My brother died in 2021 when he was 26 so the tattoo is a tribute to him,” he explains. “He passed not long before my first professional fight and I was in camp at the time. He was actually one of my biggest fans. He had a YouTube channel with videos of me and used to come to all my fights.

“He really inspired me. He was ten times the fighter I will ever be. People with muscular dystrophy don’t usually get beyond 16 or 17 and he made it to 26. That to me is a true fighter.

“It was so tough what he went through and it was hard to watch the decline. But he always had a smile on his face and was up for a laugh. I have the ability and my health to go on and chase my dreams. My brother never had that opportunity because of what happened. So I feel that I have to take what’s been given to me and do it for the both of us.”

There will soon be new life to cherish, too, with Ewen’s partner, Holly, expecting the couple’s first child next month, adding to what has already been a seismic start to 2023 for the athlete who trains out of the Higher Level gym in Bathgate.

“This is my first child and I’m ecstatic about it, I cannot wait,” he confirms with typical enthusiasm. “People always say that when athletes have children they take their level even higher as they’re so motivated to do well. I’m sure that will be the same for me, too.”

Securing the Bellator contract not only gives Ewen a wider platform on which to showcase his talents but also provides him with a form of financial security and peace of mind. It is a significant moment in a career that he predicts will one day arrive at the very top.

“This is going to help sky-rocket my career,” he adds. “Bellator is one of the biggest organisations in the world. It’s such a good deal as well and means I can look after my family and just focus on fighting and not having to worry about all that other stuff.

“I’m only 4-0 so it’s crazy. I’ve had to pinch myself a bit. But I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it. I want to climb the ranks, become a champion. I’ve got all these goals I want to check off. I want to become a world champion and I believe that’s my destiny. I won’t stop until I’ve done it.”

A spot of modelling for the Colours Agency has helped pay the bills in recent years but the photo shoots and catwalks will have to wait for the time being.

“That was mostly just a means to an end and keep people off my back!” he laughs. “I started MMA when I was 18, still staying with my mum and chasing the dream. I needed some money and Colours reached out to me. At first I thought, “nah, that’s not for me! I’m not going to be a model” but my mum told me to give it a go.

“It was fairly easy work and it was a different environment and I quite liked being in front of the cameras. But it was always just for money to help me chase the main goal. And that’s to become a world champion. That’s always going to be the number one priority.”