SCOTTISH mixed martial artist Chris Bungard plans to fight like a lion on his Bellator debut tonight in Newcastle – a fortnight after he sat down for a cup of tea with the Lisbon Lions at Celtic Park.

The Holytown fighter, the first Scot signed to UFC’s rival promoter, conducted the half-time draw at Parkhead recently, warming up for the main event with a cuppa in the company of Celtic greats Bobby Lennox, John Clark and Bertie Auld.

A huge Celtic fan, who also keeps himself in shape now and then playing up front for Sunday amateur outfit Bullfrog AFC, Bungard also had the privilege of visiting Celtic’s Lennoxtown training ground recently to put Kieran Tierney, Craig Gordon and Scott Brown through their paces on the pads.

“I have been a Celtic fan since I have been a baby so that was honestly one of the best days of my life,” said Bungard. “I also got to go up and train with the players at Lennoxtown, take them on the pads.

“Before the game I was having a wee cup of tea, sitting besides Bobby Lennox, John Clark and Bertie Auld so it was just unbelievable,” he added. “These guys won the European Cup 60 odd years ago and here they are, sitting down having a cup of tea with me.

“I got interviewed on the pitch at half-time at Celtic Park. I was asked which one of the lads would be good at MMA and I just blurted out Scott Brown because he is the hard man in the middle. But to be honest, that day he was on the pads up at Lennoxtown, he was absolutely terrible! Kieran Tierney was saying ‘why did you not pick me?’”

Bungard – who fights out of the Scottish hit squad team alongside UFC lightweight Paul Craig, has a 13-4 record in all and is currently riding a three-fight winning streak after wins over Danny Nash, Nathaniel Roberto and Niall Smith. Tonight’s opponent Terry Brazier, a former two-weight world champion at another promoter, has lost just one of his 11 fights but Bungard will travel south of the border with 200 supporters from Lanarkshire and no inferiority complex.

“This is probably as big as fight as I’ve had,” Bungard said. “Terry is 10-1, on a ten-fight winning streak, but he is used to fighting at a higher weight. It is a big jump, seven kilos, from welterweight to lightweight so you never know how he is going to be in the later rounds. I asked for this fight, because I know a win against Terry will put me right up the rankings.”

Part of the Scottish fighter’s preparation for this fight has been undertaken in Dublin, a venue where he often brushes shoulders with Irish UFC great Conor McGregor.

“I have trained with Conor hundreds of times and all the guys out there," he said. "One of my team-mates in Scotland is in the UFC and there isn’t a big difference, just two big promotions, the top two in the world kind of battling it out.

“Conor is an animal, he is so good everywhere. Just to be on the same mat as him you can take a lot from him. He’s just a normal guy on the mat, there to train and work hard. He just earns a lot more money than the rest of us!”

“MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world, just being around the streets in Holytown or on social media, people stop me in the street for pictures now,” he adds. “It is all part of the package of becoming a well known fighter, people who support you and give you a good luck messages so you need to put yourself out there. A lot of fans are choosing MMA over boxing just now - you see a lot of boxing going to decisions and a lot of robberies, but MMA can finish from the first second to the last second.”

Bungard doesn’t seem it but he goes by the nickname ‘the bad guy’, something which dates back to his exploits on the amateur football pitch rather than his MMA career.

“I still play on a Sunday, although obviously I can’t really do it when I have a fight coming up,” he said. “But I’m a striker and I like to score a few goals now and then. I haven’t played in seven or eight weeks and missed a Scottish Cup quarter final in Edinburgh the other week. I was gutted to miss an away day.”