The memory of his mother is evident in his mind every time Chris Duncan steps into the cage.
It was his mother, after all, who, at a young age, sneaked him into boxing classes against the wishes of his grandparents, and it was his mother who realized early on that her son had a fighting talent and helped him along the way.
When she was taken away from him in 2014, that was what made it so hard, just when he was about to make his MMA debut.
Duncan woke up for his very first MMA competition the morning of the weigh-in, and as soon as his grandparents stepped into his bed, he realized that something was wrong. However, no one could have expected what they would announce to him: his mother had been assassinated.
And so, Duncan had to come to grips with earth-shattering events at just 21 years of age. The thought of competing right after such a bombshell may have been too much for anyone, but for Duncan, it was something he had to do for his mother’s memory. And everything in Duncan changed from that point on.
“From that moment on, it was like a turning point for me and I decided to just focus on myself,” he said.
Everything like that makes you know that in a second your life can be taken away, and that was terrifying for me, really.
It kept me motivated and focused, even to this day, throughout my amateur career.
“My mom was a big fan of mine – she never pushed me to do it, but she knew I could fight. That’s why I wear a pendant on a chain with her fingerprint and wedding ring and wear it the week of the fight. It gives me a little strength to know she is there. She’s the main reason I do this.”
Duncan got the push to where he’s now: he’s the new Scottish signing for MMA giant Bellator. Last month, the Stirlingshire man made his debut in Italy for promotion, beating Iamik Furtado in an impressive performance to raise his professional record to 7-0 and ensure that he becomes one of the sport’s most talked about talents.
However, this is quite a departure from his earlier career. Duncan started his working life as a sheepherder and felt that was his calling for a while.
He’s not an academic, as he claims, but after becoming an award-winning shepherd, he began to realize that the life of a shepherd, where you work for six days almost non-stop, get drunk on Saturday night, feel bad on Sunday night, and then start the cycle all over again, may not be for him, and he decided to give MMA a try.
It was a gamble that in remarkable ways is beginning to pay off. Although he’s still working as a personal trainer for his day, he’s quick to admit that he’s under pressure to succeed in MMA, especially after the recent news that next spring he and his girlfriend are expecting their first kid.
The lightweight said, “I’m under pressure and I need to do well – there’s no doubt about that,”
I now have my life focused on that – I can’t do well. I don’t have any skills other than combat. Yes, I’m a personal trainer, but it’s not a lifetime career to be a personal trainer, nor was it a long-term dream for me. I put it all into this, because I have no choice but to do well.
On the way, raising a baby adds another dimension to everything I do. I’ve always shifted my life’s focus – I’m more focused on making money and helping my family, so it just brought things to a new level.
Duncan may still be fresh off his first Bellator victory, but in the near future, he already has his eyes set on returning to the ring, hopefully to face Irishman Kiefer Crosbie, the sport’s superstar. Despite Duncan’s excitement for making the war happen, however, he is not persuaded Crosbie would risk the Scot’s loss.
“I’d definitely like to fight again by the end of the year – I’d like to fight again as soon as possible,” he said.
In that hostile climate, I would love to fight Kiefer in Dublin and show all of his fans that I’m going to go into his backyard and wipe the floor with him.
He’s got this persona and he walks around like he owns the house, so I would love to keep him in line. Let him come and fight me if he wants a real fight. Let’s see if he’s going to take the bait—I don’t think he’s going to, and I think his team around him is going to try to defend him because he’s a big name, not a big name.