In 2013, Robert Whiteford (15-4) became the first mixed martial artist from Scotland to sign with the UFC, paving the way for competitors such as JoAnne Calderwood and Stevie Ray to do the same in years to come. After a 2-3 run in the promotion that lasted nearly three years, he was subsequently released in April 2016.
Months later, “The Hammer” made his debut for then-dominant Russian MMA organization Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB), going 3-0, most notably submitting UFC veteran Nam Phan in a mere 29 seconds. However, in 2018, ACB began experiencing financial difficulties, and numerous events were canceled.
In November of 2018, it was announced that they had merged with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA) to form a new promotion, now known as Absolute Championship Akhmat, or ACA.
Whiteford last competed for ACB in May 0f 2018 and shortly thereafter requested a release from the promotion due to lack of communication the promotion’s apparent unwillingness to allow him to compete.
In a 2018 interview with MMA Fighting, the Scotsman vented his frustrations with the organization.
“There had literally been zero contact since I fought on that show in Nottingham [in May]” explained Whiteford, “I’ve got Russian friends, so I knew things had gone bad [for ACB] since then. [ACB] were trying to book me on shows, they were trying to book me on the London card and I knew things were going bad. Then they tried to book me on the Sweden card, and because the London card had been canceled and some other shows, I didn’t take it. That [Swedish] card eventually got canceled too, like I knew it would, so it didn’t make sense for me to be booked on those shows.
“What would have happened if I didn’t have that information? I would’ve put a lot of money into a camp and then I’d have nothing to show for it. It’s f*cking bullsh*t and I’m so sick of the situation, it’s unbelievable,” Whiteford told MMAFighting.
Despite the ongoing social media war between the promotion and their fighter, there was no update as to how the situation was being handled. Now, though, the conflict seems to have been resolved:
Talking to Record Sport Online, the 36-year-old confirmed the news that he indeed inked his signature with the promotion, and he offered an explanation as to why Bellator is the perfect place for him to shine.
“I’ve always wanted to fight for Bellator,” said Whiteford. “They’ve been putting on great shows in Europe with the new European Fight Series, and I just kept thinking that Bellator was the promotion for me.”
“The Hammer” is eager to return to competition and is ready to show the world that he is the most dominant mixed martial artist in Scotland.
“I know Bellator have other Scottish fighters signed but I’m ready to take a big run at this and show Bellator who the real Scottish fight boy is. They haven’t seen anything like me yet! At this point, I don’t care who I’m matched up with to fight. Just give me anybody, put them in front of me and sit back and enjoy the fight.”
Bellator have recently announced that a return to Dublin in September, where James Gallagher is set to headline against Cal Ellenor. Whiteford is optimistic that his debut will come to fruition on the very same card as he loves fighting in Ireland.
“The Dublin card is taking place in September and if I could get on that card, it would be brilliant. I’ve fought in Dublin a few times before, so it feels a little bit like home for me. The fans are always brilliant and it’s not far for the Scottish fans either so it would be perfect for me.”
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.