Former UFC lightweight Stevie Ray has unfinished business inside the octagon, calling an end to his two-year ‘retirement’. The Jock pulled the curtains on his vocation back in September 2020, notwithstanding a majority decision victory in his final bout against Michael Johnson [19-17-0] in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN+ 20: Maia vs. Askren, back in October 2019. The victory in Singapore would subsequently be described by Ray as ‘the biggest of his career’.
Now, however, information has come to light regarding the 31-year-old’s departure with the UFC. In a recent interview with BJPENN.com, Ray claims the promotion forced him into retirement, despite his landmark victory. After amassing a 7-4 record during a five-year stint with the UFC, Ray maintains that the promotion was looking to oust him for some time. After a recurring knee injury plagued a potential fight with Marc Diakese [14-4-0] in March 2020, the writing appeared to be on the wall for ‘Braveheart’:
“My manager at the time, Ali Abdelaziz phoned me and said, ‘Stevie, how would you feel about signing with another promotion if I can get you more money?’ I told him it depends on how much more money, like obviously I want to stay with the UFC but if it’s a lot more money, that changes things.
I thought it was a strange phone call as I just re-signed with the UFC and won the biggest fight of my career. He basically then just said the UFC knows you have a knee injury and they want rid of you.”
The 155lb Ray continues by suggesting that the UFC fully expected him to lose to the well versed Johnson, only for him to upset the odds in the hard-fought clash:
“I had then heard they wanted to get rid of me before the Johnson fight and they wanted me to lose so they could cut me, which is why they gave me that fight. Of course, I managed to win and after I won, they didn’t want to re-sign me right away as I was starting to be expensive. I made 40k and 40k against Johnson plus the 10k for Reebok so almost 100k a fight. After some time, I got the new contact.
Then, later on, I got another phone call from Ali and he said ‘look, we have to sign somewhere else, they are not giving us a choice.’ The plan was to say I was a free agent and was looking at other options, if not, the UFC will say they are cutting you because of the knee problems. I was devastated. Before they had released me, they wanted me to get my knee checked out. I went and did that and I got a heads up that they never expected me to get the clearance as that was an easy way for them to get rid of me. I see the doctor and he clears me to fight.”
Following his subsequent release, Ray admits falling into a depression. Yet, with the news of the cut ties yet to leak, he made the decision to announce his retirement, masking the true nature of his departure from the promotion.
Despite his frustration with how things concluded, the father of four insists that there are no sour grapes between him and the organisation. Moreso, he even dreams of the possibility of aligning with the UFC once more, although he admits that this is unlikely.
“Ali told me to message Sean Shelby and say I’m thankful for the opportunity. Look, I am thankful for the opportunity, as much as I’m frustrated and upset. I’m over it now, but at the time, I was depressed. I had cried several times because it was the end of the chapter in the UFC and I felt like I was forced out and there was nothing I could do. I do hope we can mend fences or talk about it because I would jump at the chance to fight for them again. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen”
Despite a rough few years of Ray, the future appears to be on the up for the former Cage Warriors lightweight champ. Now, with the world seemingly going back to normal, the brawler from Kirkaldy claims to have begun negotiations with franchises outside of the UFC.
“I’m now looking for a new promotion, I’m in talks with Bellator and Brave CF right now. I’m a game opponent and fight in exciting fights. I just want to get back in there and see if I still got it. I’ve always been a fighter. Brave is interested in signing me to a long-term deal. I’ve been wanting to end retirement for ages. It has been hard with COVID, my country was shut down for a bit. I need to get back, I’m always in the gym training and sparring. Just get one fight and remind everyone that I can fucking fight.”
Where would you like to see Stevie Ray fight next?
Let us know in the comments!