UFC: Robert Whiteford on being an outspoken Scot and his Bellator debut

Robert Whiteford in the Octagon at the UFC Glasgow event at the SSE Hydro.
Robert Whiteford was the first Scot to join the UFC

"I couldn't really keep my mouth shut. I'm from Scotland - if something is wrong, I'm always going to stand up for myself."

Robert Whiteford was the first Scottish mixed martial artist to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster, blazing the trail for the likes of Joanne Calderwood, Steven Ray and Paul Craig.

From launching into the Glasgow crowd to celebrate a knockout win and picking up the hefty fine that went with it, to being released by the company suddenly after two losses, the 36-year-old from Fauldhouse made an impact at every given opportunity.

His fearless attitude and resilience have served him well, as he has yet to be defeated since leaving the UFC and is about to make his Bellator debut on Saturday.

Here, the 36-year-old speaks to BBC Scotland about joining Bellator, being an outspoken Scotsman, working on different fighting styles in Brazil and missing his cat.

Jumping the cage & lifting the roof

Whiteford has fought professionally since 2009 and first signed a contract with UFC in 2013, creating a piece of history.

He shook up the mixed martial arts scene in a short space of time while never being one to shy away from voicing his opinion when he felt the politics of the sport may not be in his favour.

"Being the first Scottish guy to sign for UFC was the highlight. Nobody can ever take that away from me - it's not a record someone can beat", said Whiteford, who also tells of his Glasgow homecoming win over Paul Redmond at the country's first ever UFC event in July 2015 with a smile on his face.

"I will never forget the sell-out show at the Hydro. It was the first UFC Glasgow fight night. I knocked my opponent out in three minutes, and then somehow managed to jump the cage and went into the crowd to celebrate. The promoter asked me afterwards 'what were you thinking doing that?' and I was like 'well clearly I wasn't thinking at all'. I took the roof off the place after taking his head off.

"I found issue with the politics of the sport - it is a business as well. For being a large company, UFC is essentially run by three guys calling the shots. Unfortunately if one of them doesn't like you, or you fall on bad terms with them - it feels as though there is nobody else in the organisation you can turn to.

"My UFC career came to an abrupt end because I couldn't really keep my mouth shut. It probably painted me in a bad light with a few people at UFC."

Robert Whiteford
Robert Whiteford, right, defeated Paul Redmond at the Hydro in Glasgow in 2015

'My best friend is my ginger moggy'

Before turning professional, "The Hammer" had a career in plumbing and heating engineering, but decided it was more important to follow his dreams than worry about his bank balance.

The Scot often spends time travelling and training in different corners of the world, working with some great coaches and honing his skills in different MMA disciplines.

"I would have probably made more money being an engineer but money isn't everything.

"Obviously I would love to be on the kind of money [Conor] McGregor is on, but not everybody gets that chance," he explains. "The money I was making in one fight is as much as somebody might make in a whole year - for me that was still life changing.

"You do always want more though. I'm not from a well-off background, so the money I have made is still mind blowing for me. I can afford to go travelling and train around the world and compete.

"Brazil was one of my favourite places to visit - I spent six weeks there and training consisted of lots of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu."

However, he does confess there is a down side.

"It is always incredible getting to train around the world, but I do miss some of my home comforts.

"I'm a cat lover. My best friend is my ginger moggy called Ollie. When I go to the gym [at home] he comes with me. He hardly leaves my side, or more than likely I hardly leave his when I am at home. I miss him terribly when I'm away."

'Scots will travel south to support me'

Whiteford has signed a contract with American mixed martial arts promoters Bellator, who are currently making an impact in the European MMA scene.

With a current fight history of 15 wins and four losses, the Fauldhouse-born boxer hopes that the move will give him a platform to increase these statistics.

Whiteford's opponent for his debut at the O2 in London on Saturday has changed to Sam Sicilia, his ex-UFC counterpart, in a fight he has had his mind set on since his professional career began.

"As I got older, I fell in love with boxing," he said. "Being from Fauldhouse, we have a great history of boxers from there. I love to grapple and to strike on my feet. I'm a boxing southpaw but I'm actually right handed judo stance, so it makes for interesting fights.

"I have heard great things about Bellator - my experience so far has been great, I have been treated well, and financially it is perfect for me. If someone shows me loyalty and respect, I'll show it back so I'm happy at Bellator right now."