CHRIS DUNCAN’S journey to the verge of the UFC is unorthodox, to say the least. 

There is unlikely to be many shepherds who aspire to fighting in the world’s most prestigious mixed martial arts promotion but, within the space of just a few years, Duncan has gone from the Scottish hillsides to Las Vegas, with fame and fortunes now within his grasp. 

The 28-year-old has been selected to take part in Dana White's Contender Series, which over recent years has seen the most impressive fighters handed UFC contracts by the promotion’s president, White. 

On the 21st of this month, Duncan will travel to Vegas to take on fellow lightweight Manuel Gaxhja of Albania and while it would be understandable for Duncan to get caught up in the hype that accompanies the UFC, the Stirlingshire man remains entirely unfazed by the direction his life could be headed. 

“My approach to this fight is no different to usual. Obviously the banner of UFC is a big deal and everyone knows what it is so I’m preparing myself mentally to be under the spotlight,” he says.  

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“But I’m trying to take away everything that goes on around UFC and just concentrate on the fight itself.  

“I’m going to blitz this fight and then afterwards, bask in all the benefits that go with it rather than get caught up with it all beforehand.” 

Duncan boasts an impressive 7-0 record in the professional MMA ranks and while his potential has never been in doubt, the speed of his progress has been remarkable.  

However, his rapid ascent has come as little surprise to himself; he is, above all, resilient and driven, with the events Duncan has endured throughout his life ensuring he is tough as nails. 

At the age of 21, his mother, who was his greatest fan and biggest cheerleader, was murdered. Rather than cause him to lose direction however, the tragedy saw Duncan become laser-focused on what exactly he wanted to achieve and he is in no doubt he will be the proud owner of a UFC contract in the very near future. 

And his journey to this point has, he is certain, helped him overtake many of his peers, as well as survive the chaos caused to everyone’s life by the pandemic. 

“Struggles and hard times definitely make a better person,” he says.  

“Because I’ve come from a tougher background, I feel like I’ve got that little bit more grit and determination that pushes me further on and has accelerated my progress more than some other guys.  

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“And the past year and a half, because of Covid, has been a tough time for every single person on the planet but actually, I coped okay because it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. 

 “Right now, I’m in the best shape of my life mentally, physically and emotionally and I’ve got this opportunity to prove what I’m made of. 

“I know what’s going to happen, I’m going to get this contract and things are going to really flip for me.” 

Had the pandemic not still been enduring, Duncan’s trip to Vegas would have had an extra edge.  

His girlfriend, Laura, and he have a long-standing pact that they would get married in Vegas if he was ever to fight there, but the rules on travel have forced that plan to be put on the backburner. 

Instead, she will be forced to watch from Scotland, alongside their daughter, Summer, who was born in May. 

Becoming a father has affected Duncan in ways he could never have imagined and while his approach to his career remains unaffected, his desire to make her proud is rarely far from his mind. 

And, he hopes, it won’t be long before she can boast of having a UFC fighter as a dad. 

“I didn’t expect to feel how I do about her,” he says. 

The National:

“It hasn’t changed my perspective on fighting but the biggest thing for me is that when she gets to two, three years old and really knows what’s going on, I want her to think I’m a super-hero.  

“I want to be her role model and I want to provide her with everthing I possibly can. 

“Maybe I am away for two months at a time but it’ll be worth it because I’ll be able to take her to Disney World and places like that. It’s so hard being away from her but the sacrifices have to come somewhere to get the pay-off in the end.”