Former UFC lightweight contender Stevie Ray refuses to look back in anger after signing a new multi-fight deal with promotional powerhouse PFL.
The newly wedded Caledonian was shockingly cut from the UFC roster back in 2019 when an arthritic knee injury continued to plague potential matchups. However, following a two-year rehabilitation, the former BAMMA and Cage Warriors Lightweight Champ had no shortage of suitors once he declared he was ready to return to the cage.
“(T)he UFC weren’t really interested because they knew about my bad knee, Bellator the same,” disclosed the frighteningly intense 31-year-old Ray. “There were other promotions like Cage Warriors but going from the money I was making at the UFC, it felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth going off to fight for ‘peanuts’, basically.
“PFL was interested, plus a few others, like UAE Warriors. Brave (FC) actually offered me a five-fight contract, so I had some options. At least now I knew I was definitely gonna fight again soon!
“Brave put a contract on the table that I would still fight for, but then I got a better deal to be in the PFL, in the million-dollar tournament! I’m on good money per fight as well. They’re the ones that came back with the best offer.”
‘Braveheart’s’ addition to the 2022 PFL roster will see him compete for the first time since he chronicled a career-high performance, edging UFC veteran Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson in a split-decision at UFC Singapore, back in October 2019.
However, despite the recent downturn in the father of four’s fortunes, Ray remains fiercely loyal to those who stood by him throughout troublesome times; most notably long-term manager Ali Abdelaziz, who Ray credits with facilitating his comeback.
“Ali gets a lot of stick on social media and stuff. After the last interview I did, because of the way it came out, […] it might have looked like he fucked me over,’ says the Fife-born flyer.
“But I really have to thank Ali. The truth is, he’s always been there for me. He’s the one that got me back to the UFC when I was out of contract after all the problems with my old manager, following the (Paul) Felder fight. He’s the one that’s set up the contract with PFL as well. I’m really grateful for everything he’s done.”
Despite parting ways with the promotion leading UFC, the Kirkaldy kickboxer maintains that there’ll be no straight sailing in the PFL, paying homage to the talent on the current roster plus those who came before him.
Ray states: “To be honest, there’s a lot of fighters that aren’t in the UFC but are UFC calibre. I think a lot of people think that you need to be in the UFC to have a tough fight but I had loads of tough fights before I ever got to the UFC. In fact, some of my easiest fights were in the UFC. Whether that’s just because I got better, I don’t know.”
There’s also no shortage of motivation for the 5’10” southpaw, who admits that, while his life has taken an uptick since he first stepped foot in the cage, it remains some way off the Utopia he ultimately envisaged for himself and his family.
“You need the desire and I’ve still got a lot of dreams and a lot of goals”, he says.
“I still crave that life-changing money because my life is still pretty average, to be honest. It’s changed a lot from way before (I started fighting), you know. I’ve got my own house, I’ve got nice cars, I’ve lived a pretty good life. But it’s not quite the life-changing experience that I’ve always wanted. The fact that I’ve got the chance to win a million dollars, I’m gonna train the hardest I’ve ever trained, I’m gonna go in there and try and smash everyone that’s in front of me!”
In the PFL promotion, fighters compete in a league structure, with each combatant awarded additional points for their ability to dispose of their opponents and promptly as possible. When asked about how the structure would affect his game, Ray, who has sent 14 of his 23 victims for an early shower, asserts that he will thrive under the house rules.
“Maybe I’m just being biased, but I think that this is the best structure for me,” says the granite-cast grappler.
“In the past, I felt like I’ve actually lost fights because I was coasting too much. When I first started fighting, I wasn’t as technical, my gym didn’t have the best technique training, but I had that killer instinct. I suppose it was more me just being a tough guy, I knew how to fight. Because of that, I beat a lot of guys that I shouldn’t have beat, you get me?
“Anyway, I just think the (PFL) structure will work in my favour. I know that if I win in the first round, you get six points, second-round you get five points. I’m not going out to just win because that might not be enough. If you wanna make it to the playoffs, you gotta be one of those fighters with the top four points. There’s just something more to gain when you win in the first or second round. I’m gonna go out there and try and take the guy’s head off from the get-go… and get that million dollars!”
What can we expect from Stevie Ray 2.0? Let us know in the comments!