Stevie Ray leaves for Lanzarote today to relax, embrace the vitamin D and remove from his mind all thoughts pertaining to mixed martial arts. He won’t think about his fight this past Saturday, a decision win over Joe Lauzon, and he won’t think too much about his next fight, potentially a slot on the UFC’s Glasgow card in July, either. Instead, Stevie Ray will enjoy the company of his ‘missus’ and their daughter and go through the healing and unwinding process all fighters must go through following an intense three-round battle.
“I’ve got some bumps and bruises,” he says. “I’ll see how I feel.”
Moments after defeating Lauzon in Nashville, Ray was congratulated by UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby and informed of the UFC’s desire to get him on their upcoming show in Scotland. It was important, though, Shelby said, for Ray to feel in the right frame of mind for a quick-turnaround. Glasgow is, after all, just 12 weeks away and Ray was victorious but banged up. He is also, however, Scottish, which is to say he will do everything in his power to make sure he’s ready for July 16.
“Right now I’m thinking let’s do it – main event in Glasgow,” he says. “Shelby approached me after the fight and it was really good what he said actually. He said obviously they would like me on the card, but he wants me to take a week or so to see how I feel. He knows I’m going to be like ‘let’s get on it’ but it was quite cool to see he was looking after the safety of the fighter as well. He said, ‘Look, you were in another tough fight there. Go and take a week off and come back to me in a week or two and let me know how you feel.’”
No one who watched Ray’s bout with Lauzon would begrudge him a break, that’s for sure. Dominated and nearly submitted by a rear naked choke in round one, the man from Kirkcaldy pulled himself together, listened to the sage words of advice from his cornerman, James Doolan, and capitalised on Lauzon tiring down the stretch. Three rounds and fifteen minutes later, both lightweights believed they’d done enough to win. But it was Ray who had his hand raised.
“I wasn’t sure (I’d get the decision),” he says. “It was tough calling it at the time but I remember thinking, well, he won the first round, the second round was close and I couldn’t remember how that went, and the third round I definitely won. I thought it could go either way. I was prepared for that. Having said that, watching it back I do believe I won the fight.”
The Lauzon win marked the fifth of Ray’s two-year UFC career. It follows an upset victory over fellow Brit Ross Pearson in November and has him eyeing up those 155-lbers higher up the rankings. Bigger paydays, too.
“I think I’ll start getting the recognition now,” says the 27-year-old. “I think the lightweight division will be on notice. That was obviously a big fight on the main card. It was in the States. A lot of the fighters would have been watching it and thinking, this guy is legit. That’s what I want. Like McGregor said, ‘I’m not here to take part, I’m here to take over.’ I know it’s a tough process to get to the number one spot but in the long run that’s what I’m looking to do. I want to be the champ.
“Short term, I hope I’ve done enough in the UFC for them to say, ‘This guy deserves to get paid.’ When I fought Ross Pearson I took the fight on short-notice and helped the UFC out. Ross Pearson, even though I beat him, would have got paid way more than me. I’ve just fought Joe Lauzon and he would have got paid way more than me as well. That’s understandable. They’ve been in the UFC for something like ten years. They’ve had a lot of fights. But now I’ve beaten both of them, I’m probably due to renegotiate a contract. I’m hoping to get some of that money.”
In truth, Ray, 21-6, seemed unlucky not to walk away with a ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus for his momentum-swinging scrap with Lauzon at UFC Fight Night 108; were it not for the action-packed and surprisingly competitive main event between Cub Swanson and Artem Lobov, Ray would have bagged an extra $50,000.
“I was gutted about that and kind of had it spent in my head already,” he says with a laugh. “With me having eleven months off last year I obviously spent a lot of my money and ended up in a bit of debt. I’ve been smart with my money, I’ve bought a house and got nice cars and stuff like that, but I’ve not been able to actually live the dream yet. I deserve to treat myself to this and that. That’s what I’m hoping will happen next.”
First, sun, sea and normality.