We don’t often don’t see the difficulties fighters go through outside of the cage, but this week Scottish lightweight Stevie Ray has given a candid view on the troubles he’s currently going through.
Ray last fought back in July when he faced Paul Felder in his own backyard at UFC Fight Night Glasgow. Things didn’t go the way of Scotsman that evening and he suffered the first knockout loss of his career inside the first round.
Speaking exclusively to MMAUNO.com this week, Ray described life since his loss to Felder.
“I went on holiday, I came back and like I said, I ended up kinda little down in the dumps with everything,” Ray said. “Obviously losing and getting knocked out for the first time and losing in Scotland, it was just kinda a downer. Yeah, I’ve just kinda been back to training and just trying to keep my head up really, keep training and wait to hear what’s next.”
Ray lost just shy of the four-minute mark when Felder landed a stiff knee and followed up with some devastating elbows on the ground. Ray confirmed that he felt great both in the build-up and the fight itself and that it was just a case of Felder being the better man on the night.
“I felt fine in there,” Ray said. “It wasn’t like, this guy was far too strong for me or like he was far too good in the clinch and I needed to get out of there. It was just kind of hit for hit, tit for tat, he would try hit me and I would try and hit him. The knee landed and that’s what changed the fight.
“The knee hit me in the chin and to be honest, I didn’t even see it coming. After that it’s just a little bit of a blur. I was probably half out from the knee and I woke back up, tried to survive and then the referee stopped it after a few elbows and stuff. You can always say, ‘Oh I should’ve done this and I should’ve done that,’ but you can always say that. It is what it is and you can’t change the past. I’ve just got to try and take from it and bounce back stronger. I always do and I always back stronger and get back on a win streak.”
While Ray was able to recall what happened in the fight, he later admitted that it was his coaches who’d filled him in with what happened and that he didn’t himself remember what happened.
“I’m not sure what actually put me down,” Ray said. “I asked my coach after how we ended up on the ground. He said a knee and I thought he meant a knee to the liver, because when he said he dropped me with a knee I was thinking ok he hit me with a body shot and I went down, he hit me with elbows.
“It was one of those ones when you can’t remember everything.”
Before the fight got signed, both Felder and Ray campaigned through social media to get the fight booked. As the fight approached, it came to light that Felder has lost his father and that’s something that seems to have hit home with Ray as they prepared to fight.
“I didn’t like, liking my opponent,” Ray said. “It was almost like I actually like him, maybe I like him too much and gave him like… Even if there’s no beef or whatever, I’m still thinking in my head that I want to kill this guy because he’s going to try and kill me. I dunno, it was weird with Paul. His Dad had just died and stuff and nobody ever close to me has died, touch wood.
“It was almost like I felt sorry for him a bit.”
“Still, I could’ve hated his guts and still lost—it’s the fight game. He was a powerful striker. He hits hard and he’s a big guy and I made some mistakes. You know, maybe he just did everything right.”
UFC Contract Limbo
Prior to the fight with Felder, Ray openly spoke his contract situation with the UFC and said that he was gambling on himself to beat Felder and secure a better fight contract. Having now lost, Ray finds himself in a place of uncertainty and he’s yet to receive a guarantee that the UFC will be offering him a new contract.
“What I’ve heard from my manager is that Sean [Shelby] has said that he has nothing for me just now, yeah, he doesn’t anything for me at the moment because he has other fighters that are in contract that are also waiting on fights,” Ray said. “So, he’s going to deal with them first and then he’s going to deal with my situation. So, he’s not said like, I mean I dunno, if I can ask this either, but he’s not said that I’m getting a contract and that he’s just dealing with others first and that he’ll speak to me in October or something like that.
“It’s just like being in limbo, I dunno what’s happening.”
“I don’t know if I’m 100-percent getting a contract. He’s also said that he understands that he’s not wanting to hold me back so he knows that I’m free to look elsewhere at like Bellator or whatever else. So that in itself is a bit like, right ok, the UFC aren’t offering me something right now because there’s other people waiting on fights—that’s totally understandable, that’s fine, but he’s also not said that I am getting a contract and that he doesn’t want to hold me back. So, he’s being nice about it all, saying I’m free to look elsewhere, but it’s also like I must not mean that much to them if I’m allowed to look elsewhere.”
Despite being authorized to get offers from rival promotions, Ray and his manager are yet to test the waters. In Ray’s mind, his preferred option is top stay with the UFC and carry on climbing the ranks.
“I think my manager, I’m not sure if he’s reached out to them yet, but he’s said that he will reach out to them,” Ray said. “I’ve told that I ideally want to stay in the UFC. Obviously, if Bellator came in with like crazy money that’s different, but right now there’s no offers on the table so I’d like to stay where I am and keep working up the ranks.
“It’s bit of a setback losing obviously, but I’m still 5-2 in the UFC and I’ve beaten legends in my eyes, Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon. Like I said, I lost before in my career so that’s what I want to do.
“Ideally, I’d get another fight in before the end of the year, so I’m hoping the UFC can offer me a contract.”
“I understand I’m not going to get the one the one I was wanting and the one I was gambling for.”
Mental Dark Places
Ray then talked about the mental state the last few months had put him in. Suffice to say, it doesn’t make for easy reading.
“I don’t want to speak s*** on the UFC or anything like that,” Ray said. “I’m hoping they’re going to give ma contract so I’m not going to speak crap, but I’m not going to lie because it’s a s*** feeling. Waking up every day and not knowing what the hell is happening. Everything you do you’ve got have a goal and you’ve got to have a drive.
“There’s been all sorts going on my head—especially with getting beat as well. Getting knocked out for the first time in my whole career.
“I don’t know if I’ve had like post-fight depression type thing or something like that.”
“I’m sure everyone will know, it’s not fun or good to get knocked out in front of millions of people, especially if it’s the first time it’s happened.”
“To be honest, for a good few weeks, I sat in the house, laid in my bed and I didn’t want to get out of my bed. I was just in like a really dark place.”
“I don’t really know if that was from trauma of getting knocked out, but it’s like the worst, it’s definitely the worst I’ve ever been mentally in my life.”
While his mood appears to have been healed a little by time, Ray still finds himself in the quandary of uncertainty. The thought of not getting a new UFC contract clearly hurts him and it’s even leading him to question his life choices.
“I tried watching videos because I didn’t want to feel the way I felt,” Ray said. “I didn’t want to feel like this, but something is forcing me to feel like this so I was trying to watch these positive videos and I obviously I feel a bit better after that. It’s a different when you’re in a situation when you cannot control your own life. To an extent I can, I could say ‘F*** fighting’ like screw it. I could go get a job—I got the option to do that, but I didn’t really want to do that.
“I’ve spent the last eight years of my life training, training like mad, training like I believe a professional athlete should be training like. I drive to the other side of the country to train every night. When I’m in fight camp I drive all the way to Glasgow so I drive one hour and a half to train and then an hour back home at night.
“I feel like I’ve put so much into MMA, like I kinda sometimes wish I put it into something else—studied or something.”
“Eight years, the amount of effort, sacrifice and time I’ve put into MMA, if I’d put that into something else I could’ve been a genius. That’s what’s the hardening part about it all.
For the time being at least it’s a waiting game. Ray remains resolute in the fact he won’t speak ill of the UFC, but the uncertainty of his current contract situation is clearly torturing the man who has three children to provide for.
“I’m a modest guy and I don’t speak s*** at all and the UFC probably want me to,” Ray said. “Don’t get me wrong I wish I was because it makes you want to.
“I more like to be humble and be true rather than be false.”
“I mean even look at my debut. I had two weeks to try and lose 31-pounds and fight in Poland against a leg lock specialist. It’s the wee things like that which make me feel like I’ve done a lot and that I deserve a bit better than being left with the way that things are now.”
The fight life is real folks.