Chris Duncan is in it “for the long haul” or until he has accumulated enough money to secure his family’s long-term future. Whichever comes sooner.  

Duncan is 30 years old and reckons he could continue as an MMA combatant for another decade if need be, even in this most demanding of professions. The man nicknamed The Problem, though, hopes to achieve his objectives a lot sooner and is leaving no stone unturned to make it happen.

Preparations for tonight’s UFC lightweight fight against Manuel Torres began on New Year’s Day when he waved goodbye to his pregnant partner and young daughter to head to Coconut Creek in Florida for an extensive training camp with American Top Team (ATT) before crossing the border to spend a fortnight assimilating to the conditions in Mexico City where this bout takes place.

Duncan is on a four-fight winning streak and this, the final contest of his UFC contract, is a vital one as he looks to make all those sacrifices and effort worthwhile.

“You need to make sure in this game you’re doing every single thing you can to get all those small extra percentages,” he says. “I’ve been away from home since January 1 so there weren’t many New Year celebrations for me. So it’s been eight weeks away from home which is tough.

“I phone them every day but I’m missing things like the gender reveal of the baby, my daughter going to the dentist and nursery and just spending time with my fiancée – the day to day things of life.

“But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to provide for your family. I just want to make a wad of cash and then hopefully I can retire by the age of 40.

“That’s why I take myself away, to make sure I’m sleeping well and training with the best people. No stone is left unturned. I have to do everything to make sure I’m in the best shape of my life.

“I’m feeling good about this one. It’s the last fight of my contract and I’m going to put it on Torres and make him gasp for air. I’m going to be all over him, both striking and on the ground.

“I really want to make an impression to make sure I get a new deal and make more cash. The money I’m on just now is good but it’s not great. It will make things easier if I’m making better money and I won’t have to fight so often, constantly beating my body up to make the weight and all the rest. Things just become easier with your second contract.”

Fighting in Mexico City brings its own challenges but, again, Duncan has approached it with typical fastidiousness to ensure his body is in the best possible shape to cope.

“I’ve been out here for two weeks now to get used to things,” he added. “I wanted to get used to the climate as obviously the air is pretty thin here. I slept in an altitude tent every night for six weeks prior to this so I’ve done everything I can.

“I used it in the dorms at ATT. Dustin Poirier [the American fighter] gave me a shot of his and I put it over my bed. It wasn’t particularly pleasant sleeping in it as it was making big noises but we need to do these things to make sure we’re fight-ready. My cardio was unbelievable throughout camp.”

It is almost a year since Duncan made his UFC debut and being attached to that organisation carries a certain cachet for every MMA fighter. He has fought twice under that banner, with a third – against Terrance McKinney in October – cancelled due to visa problems, but he’s relishing having got here.

“It feels kinda good,” he admits. “I’ve dreamt about fighting at this level for years so to be able to call myself a UFC fighter is a dream come true.”

It is not all glam, of course. Fight week, in particular, is rarely a pleasant one as combatants look to cut weight, with Duncan sipping repeatedly on a bottle of water as we talk.

“I just have to keep doing the right things. I would fight until I was 50 if I could because I enjoy it. But I don’t enjoy the weight cut or water loading. I don’t like this week. This is the part that would make me quit fighting at lightweight. It’s eight to 10 weeks of dieting. Maybe going forward I could go to 170lbs [welterweight] but at the moment it’s a case of "don't fix what’s not broken".”

Duncan is electing not to look too far beyond tonight, the only date in the diary the birth of his son in June. In the short-term, though, there will be food after this contest. And plenty of it.

“I don’t look beyond Manuel Torres. I don’t care where I fight next or when as long as I can be around for the birth of my child. That’s my only priority after tonight. And getting food. As many street tacos as I can eat!”

Watch Chris Duncan take on Manuel Torres live on TNT Sports 2 at UFC Fight Night: Moreno vs Royval 2. Coverage begins live on UFC FIGHT PASS at midnight GMT.