A MIXED martial arts expert from Greenock is fighting for children with autism inspired by his nine-year-old son.

Dad-of-three Mark Waddell, 36, has set up a free classes at his new Campbell Street gym for youngsters with the condition to help build fitness, confidence and friendships.

The Monday night club is inspired by his son Kody, who has benefited from taking part in the sport since being diagnosed with autism in 2013.

Mark's other sons, Jonah, 10, and Kody's twin brother Noah, are also accomplished competitors and the family are now sharing their knowledge and expertise to help others.

The free sessions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASN) and additional support needs have proven particularly popular - and are a huge hit at Mark's Colosseum Martial Arts gym.

He said: "It's taken off in a big way.

"We're now affiliated with the not-for-profit organisation, Fighting for Autism.

"There are a lot of children with ASD or who have additional support needs and we're trying to raise awareness of that and make it more accepted in the community.

"The Monday classes are free to anyone with autism or additional supports needs but we involve everybody together and make it as big a team as we can and that way other children are educated about it as well."

The MMA expert recently returned home to Greenock following a spell competing in England and training with some of the best in the business, including UFC veteran Danny Mitchell.

Colosseum Martial Arts is based in a unit behind McMillan Motors, just off Campbell Street, next to The Urban Fit Company gym.

Greenock rising star Maddison Mitchell, who is a team-mate of Jonah's at the Griphouse gym in Glasgow, is also helping out, while Jonah himself is a European ambassador for Fighting for Autism.

Mark said: "If you don't know somebody with autism you might think it's a disability, but it's an ability.

"Although people with autism can have trouble with their social skills, they are still lovely people if you take the time to get to know them and interact with them.

"We're all different and have our own differences but they are maybe not as obvious."

Free classes run on a Monday night and there are also sessions on Wednesday and Friday.

For more information, visit the Coloseum Martial Arts Facebook page.