It’s hard to imagine one of the best MMA fighters in Europe being left speechless and petrified by the prospect of a punch-up. 

But when Reece McEwan was 16 years old, that’s exactly what happened, and it’s what kick-started a career in MMA that has taken him to the point whereby he’s within touching distance of a world title shot and has serious designs on entering the illustrious and exclusive world of the UFC within just a year. 

McEwan will fight tonight, at Cage Warriors 156 in Cardiff, twelve years on from that moment that changed his life forever. 

“When I was 16, someone had a go at me - they squared up to me. 

“I was so terrified. I was backing off, backing off – I was so scared I couldn’t even speak. My friends had to jump in and protect me,” the 28-year-old from Greenock says. 

“The very next day, I vowed that would never happen to me again. I needed to develop confidence and not be petrified if anything like that happened to me.” 

As a teenager he did, by his own admission, struggle to find a sport in which he excelled, in no small part due to his diminutive size but, by a stroke of luck, it was McEwan’s late-night viewing habits that introduced him to MMA. 

Almost immediately, he realised MMA was the right fit for him and from the off, McEwan believed he has what it takes to become one of the very best MMA fighters Scotland has ever produced. 

“When I was a kid, I was really competitive but I was average at a lot of sports and never really good at one,” he says.  

“Then, when I was teenager, I’d stay up really late and a television show called Ultimate Fighter would come on. And one day I thought I’m going to do that. I was a really small kid but because there were weight classes, I knew I could be good at it because being small wouldn’t work against me. 

“Straight away, I said to myself that I was going to be the best fighter in the world. 

“Looking back, I’m like how deluded was I?” 

He turned out not to be quite as deluded as it initially seemed. 

McEwan made his amateur debut in late 2015 before becoming the top-ranked bantamweight in the UK. 

Having been professional for just over three years now, McEwan has progressed through the ranks rapidly, being signed for Cage Warriors, which is Europe’s premier MMA promotion after just three professional fights. 

Three victories in Cage Warriors to date, to move his record to 6-1, means he is now within touching distance of a world title shot which will, he hopes, come if he can record a fourth consecutive victory against Brazil’s Leonardo de Oliviera this evening. 

And McEwan is in no doubt as to what the outcome in Cardiff will be. 

“I feel very focused and driven and I’m confident. Obviously there’s nerves but they disappear as soon as you start fighting,” he says. 

“I’m looking to get another win and that hopefully will secure a title shot. 

“But going into this fight, I’m not just thinking about winning, I’m thinking about finishing it and making a statement.” 

It’s easy to assume that the individuals who are attracted to MMA are inherently aggressive characters. But McEwan could not be further from this description. 

And he admits one of the appealing factors of this merciless sport is the feeling that wash over him which, he is certain, cannot be matched elsewhere. 

“On the outside, this sport looks violent and barbaric. But that’s not the personality you’ll find in any MMA fighters,” McEwan says.  

“My fiancé always laughs at me because I don’t like scary films. 

“I do have a switch that flicks, though. In the lead-up to the fight, I can feel my personality changing but I think you have to have that switch because, as ruthless as it sounds, I’m preparing to step into that octagon to fight someone and I want to knock them out. But then after the fight, I’ve got a switch and I go back to how I was before. 

“When I’m in there, I let go of everything. It’s like you’re chained up and the chains are released. Even though it’s terrifying, when I’m in the octagon, it’s the most relaxed I ever feel. And the thrill you get is incredible. That’s why I do it.” 

If things go to plan for McEwan, a world title shot will come his way by the turn of the year, before securing a UFC contract in early 2024. 

The prospect of blazing a trail for bantamweights in Scotland is something that drives him, and will continue to drive him, until he achieves it. 

 “I’ve always had that belief that I’m going to be the best fighter in the world and I’ve given it everything. I’m not there yet but I’m on the right path,” he says. 

“There has, of course, been Scottish fighters in the UFC but there’s never been Scottish fighters in my weight division in the UFC so I want to change that. I want to be different and do things that people didn’t think was possible.”