A tattooed Thai boxer has become a TV sensation after starring in a Netflix challenge produced by Sylvester Stallone.
David Ferguson won an army of fans with his brave turn in extreme sports series Ultimate Beastmaster – and has returned to LA to try to make a career in the US.
Nicknamed the Tattooed Assassin, the 28-year-old from Balloch, near Dumbarton, stars in the new series of the show which is like a supercharged version of telly hit Ninja Warrior.
Competitors from all over the world gathered in California to take on The Beast, a huge structure filled with crazy strength, balance and climbing challenges designed to test every muscle and sinew.
David took part in gruelling Ultimate Beastmaster fitness challenge.
The show has been a massive hit and David said he’s been inundated with messages of support ever since.
Fans saw his story of going off the rails after his mum Karen killed herself 10 years ago, and were taken with the way he found peace using combat sports and meditation following a trip to Thailand.
David, who also appeared in SAS: Ultimate Hell Week three years ago, was drafted into the show after the producers discovered his athletic prowess and unique look.
He said: “I was delighted taking part – at first I just wanted not to embarrass myself but then I really wanted to give it everything. I was really happy with it, and I get messages from people all over the world every day telling me how much I have inspired them and that is crazy. I just love that.
“They messaged me and asked if I was interested in applying. They said they loved my look and asked if I wanted to apply. When I told them my story, they said, ‘Oh my God, you can come over, we love everything about you.’
“It was such a fast process – two weeks later I was in LA. I didn’t know anyone else from Team GB. I just met them at the hotel but we all got on very well.”
David first tried combat sports when he was 14 to help beat bullies, and started competing in Thai boxing at 16.
But his world fell apart when Karen took her own life in front of him. He began to spiral out of control and was involved in violence and assaults before finding his way back from the precipice – and now insists he is a changed man.
He spent time with monks and took a three-month vow of silence to find peace.
He said: “I saw my mum commit suicide and it messed my head up. I’ve dealt with it now. I went to Thailand to sort my head out. I was contemplating suicide.
“I was getting in trouble because I was going through trauma but I wasn’t accepting it and I was in trouble with the police a few times.
“I was over there for more than a year, fighting, training, and a bit of time to myself. I got properly spiritual but it was worth it. It’s such a beautiful place.
“It was like a retreat. I met them and they took me in. Without it, I would have struggled. It literally changed my life.”
Dad-of-two David started getting tattoos before Thailand and just kept going while he was out there. He describes them as his armour.
He said: “At first, it was a way of dealing with the pain, it was a kind of self-harm in a way – dealing with that pain without causing myself too much damage.
“Then after a while I was getting better but I realised I was more or less covered so I thought I might as well be totally covered. It’s become my identity – people identify me as the Tattooed Assassin more than they identify me as David.”
David, who also attributes his success in the ring and on TV to his life with fiancee Victoria, made his small screen debut on BBC series Ultimate Hell Week.
Having survived the SAS-style show, he applied to join the Armed Forces but was ruled out due to his tattoos. But the distinctive look helped him get his international TV break.
He was flown out to California 18 months ago to take part in the third season of Ultimate
Beastmaster, set around a massive dinosaur style climbing apparatus outside the city. David said: “It was like meeting your idol for the first time – my mouth was open, I couldn’t even speak.
“It’s unbelievably big, like two busses on top of each other with a big mouth open, it’s really intimidating when you see it all lit up.
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“The team was great. Everyone from your team was supporting you until you were out there but they all want to win so nobody is supporting you while you are doing it.
“They were all really nice and I got on really well with the Australians as well. We still keep in touch and I’ve met a few producers from the show while I am out here.”
David was the first man of his session to take part, and after a quick warm-up, faced the biggest challenge of his life.
He said: “You just go for it. There were guys who had literally flown all over the world for this and fell at the first hurdle and that’s it, they were done, going home. It’s savage.
“A lot of people there do obstacle courses as a job, so I figured I was just gonna have fun with it – I’m a fighter so if I fall, I fall and I just went in with that kind of attitude.
Sylvester Stallone produced extreme sports challenge show (Image: Getty)
“When we started, I couldn’t feel my legs and the camera was right in my face, and I was just like, ‘Do not fall, do not fall.’
“It’s crazy, people are screaming and everyone is super pumped.”
He added: “It was life changing. I was delighted with how I did. I really wanted to give it everything. I was really happy with it.
“My kids (Travis, eight and Solomon, six) loved watching it as well.
“I’ve always wanted to leave something for my kids to be proud of me, something to be proud of, and they get to watch me on Netflix. They’re on it as well so they loved going into school and telling their pals they are on Netflix.”
David is training in LA with an eye to moving out there to do more filming work and get into mixed martial arts.
He added: “I wanted to come over and see how it was like actually living here and making contacts. I was out drinking with Nick Diaz, the UFC fighter.”
Whatever challenge David takes on, he is keen to honour his mum’s memory. He said: “I don’t know how she’d feel about the tattoos but she’d be super buzzing with what I’ve done because she always wanted me to get out there and try things.”