When Chris Bungard spotted my black leather notebook at the Bellator Dublin media day, the Scotland native could not resist cracking wise.
“Is that your wee notebook? It looks like a bible, man! This guy’s rocking up with a bible! What’s going on here? Are you saying my prayers for me before I start?”
I made the only appropriate response. I stretched my arms outward and pointed out that I was also dressed like a preacher.
That received a hearty laugh.
So with the MMA gods’ light shining down on us, we began the interview.
Two-and-a-half weeks ago, Bungard was on holidays in Tunisia. When Peter Queally pulled out of his main event slot against former Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus, the promotion reached out to see if Bungard was available.
When he opened his WhatsApp and saw the message, he was on the back of a camel trekking the Sahara desert.
“It was actually quite sore, man! It was like a horse, it gave a gallop a wee bit. Aye, it was no good for males.”
After getting the coach Brian Gallacher’s seal of approval, the fight was on. There was just one problem – the training was not.
“I couldn’t train at all in Tunisia because it was pretty dodgy. Don’t go to south Tunisia, even if you’re a massive Star Wars fan like myself. Don’t do it. It’s dangerous. But I went to Poland a couple of days later, but I was limited to train until I actually came home.”
In December, Chris’ grandad sadly passed away. He was a big influence on his life and always took a huge interest in his fight preparation, as he fondly recounted.
“He used to always say, ‘How’s your weight?’ ‘Are you sure you’re ready for this?’ ‘Don’t leave yourself too much weight to cut.’ ‘I don’t like you going in the baths again.’ But he didn’t know that you always need to go in the baths, regardless. He just always looked out for me. He’ll be buzzing that I’m headlining a show and fighting in Dublin because he knew I always wanted to fight in here.”
For his first fight without his papa, Chris has something special planned. Of course, it involves hi beloved football club Celtic FC.
“This fight is for (my grandad) and every fight after this. I got a gift when he passed away of a wee Celtic hip flask. So I am going to take it into the cage with me and toast him in the cage on Saturday night – win, lose or draw.”
As for his opponent on Saturday night, Bungard isn’t the least bit intimidated by the man who holds a victory over Michael Chandler.
“I shared a bus with him and we crossed the road together. I held his hand because he was scared!”
“I think he’s a wee bit small, but it looks like his top half… he’s an animal. Shredded, big, strong, but he’s only a man at the end of the day. I’m excited to feel that elite-level clinch and grappling and see how good he really is and see how good I am.”
When Bungard stepped on the scales at Friday’s weigh-ins, he held his head down and gave it the one-fingered salute. After coming in three pounds over, the fight was changed to a 160 lb catchweight. A valiant effort on short notice. Had time not been an issue, it probably would have been a different story.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I had a full fight camp for this guy as well. Then I could really perform, but it is what it is.”
Image credits: Sathishaa Mohan