ROBERT WHITEFORD knows the pain and countless sacrifices that come with fighting for a living. 

His first-hand knowledge of what is required to become a professional MMA fighter is exactly why he hopes it is not a path his son goes down.

Blake Whiteford is just six months old and while it remains to be seen where life takes him, his dad is in no doubt there are many far easier careers to venture into than that of a fighter.

“When my pals see pictures of Blake, they’ll say he’s a future world champion and I’m thinking that’s the very last thing I want him to be. This life is just too hard so I’d never want to force it on anybody, never mind my son,” the 38-year-old says. 

“If he really wanted to do it, I’d definitely support him, but I’d never push him into it just because it’s so tough. There are so many easier things to do in life than fight for a living. 

“Having said that, it does give you the respect and the structure in life and so I’d be up for him getting into it at a young age and doing it for fun. But when it comes to doing it for a living, I just think there are easier ways to make money then this.”

While the arrival of Blake has, unsurprisingly, been the highlight of the pandemic for Whiteford, he has also brought his own challenges.

Preparing for a fight with a baby in tow is a very different experience for the  featherweight.

The West Lothian man will make his first competitive appearance in almost two years on Friday when he takes on Englishman Andrew Fisher at Bellator 267 in London and while he is desperate to get back into competitive action, the build-up to this fight has been significantly more challenging than in pre-baby days.

“Before Blake was born, I was thinking nothing’s going to change and that he’ll fit into my life. I thought it was going to be easy, but what an eye-opener. I totally underestimated what it was going to be like,” says Whiteford.

“He was a great sleeper in the early days, but now he’s started teething and it’s all gone to pot. It’s hard to get him to sleep and then his sleep is broken so I’m lucky  that my girlfriend let me move into the spare room because I was so exhausted, I couldn’t hack it. The broken sleep was killing me. I was burning the candle at both ends. 

“So a few weeks before this fight, we decided she’s going to hold the fort and then it’ll be back to normal once this fight is over.”

Other than the baby-induced sleep deprivation, Whiteford has negotiated the pandemic admirably. Along with his regular training partner, fellow pro Chris Duncan, they have continued training almost as normal and Whiteford is, he believes, in the shape of his life. 

With a record of 16-4, he knows what it takes to win, but his first fight as a father will, he admits, have an extra edge.

“Blake being here has probably given me that wee bit of extra motivation to fight harder because if you win, you get paid double so there’s part of me thinking about getting that money for him so he can have a deposit for his first house when he grows up. I think about things like that now. It’s maybe a bit of extra pressure on me now because I don’t have disposable money now, it’s all for him,” he says.

“What’s not changed though is my desire to fight. I’d be in there fighting even if I wasn’t getting paid a penny and I was doing this long before he was here. So he’s not changed why I want to be in there.”

As he approaches 40, it would be easy to assume Whiteford is nearing retirement. The battering his body had taken over a decade as a professional fighter is not to be underestimated, but while he admits the non-stop high-intensity training of the past 18 months has taken its toll, he is confident the end is still some distance away. And already, he is planning on getting back into action following this show.

“Every year, I keep telling myself one more year. I have a pretty healthy lifestyle so I think that’s given me longevity rather than some people who are burnt out by age 30. I didn’t really start fighting until I was 26, 27 and they say it takes 10 years to really know what you’re doing so that’s where I am. 

“I’m in my prime at the moment, albeit that I’m 38. The number doesn’t tell the story,” he says.

“I remember when I was younger seeing guys my age and thinking I’d run through them just because of their age but actually, I feel better now than I’ve ever felt. 

“There’s a show in Dublin soon that I’m hoping to fight in but failing that, I’ll take Blake away his first holiday. So whatever happens, I’ve got things to look forward to.”