Incredible story of bouncer who became Britain’s first ever UFC fighter

Ian Freeman was a pioneer in the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – but a personal tragedy set back his early career.

The 54-year-old former bouncer became the first ever UFC fighter in the UK at the start of the century after a friend suggested he learn to fight for money after witnessing him knock out someone while he was serving as a bouncer.

Back in July 2002, the star stunned the audience at the Royal Albert Hall where he knocked out American star Frank Mir in under five minutes.

The fight propelled the Sunderland bouncer to the front of the world champions of the UFC, but while he was about to start celebrating, tragic news reached him.

Ian’s father had been battling cancer – and had been rushed to hospital a week before the big fight as he battled to hang on to life.

Sadly, on the night of his victory against Frank Mir, Ian received devastating news from his mother that his dad had passed away.

Reflecting on the world-stopping moment to Chronicle Live, Ian said: "I'd wanted to win that fight for him, and I honestly think that nobody alive could have beat me that day. I was so focused.

"But I called home after the fight and my mam told me that my dad had died a day earlier.

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“Nobody had told me as they knew I'd not be able to go through with the fight, but within half an hour of having my hand raised, I was in complete shock."

The fighting champion opted to bury his emotions and began preparing for his next fight – which he now feels is part of the reason he lost his next match in the ring.

He said: "(UFC president) Dana White had promised me a title shot if I won, but I was still grieving for my dad.

"Instead of taking time off and grieving properly, I felt that I had to do it. I was frightened that if I didn't I wouldn't get the chance again.

"But I remember getting in (the Octagon) that night, looking over at him, and just thinking 'I don't want to be here’.”

Ian retired in 2013, fighting 28 matches in his carer, winning 20 of those – of which nine were a knock out.

He now works as an NHS ambulance medic – and is the proud father of Kennedy Freeman, who is following in her father’s fighting footsteps and is a respected MMA fighter.

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