There’s an intelligence and methodical quality to Stevie Ray’s work that extends beyond the UFC’s Octagon. As a promising lightweight contender, he picks apart his opponent, outscores them and then receives his just desserts, typically, in the form of a well-earned decision victory. But outside the cage, too, Ray, 27, has a very clear and concise way of doing things. He knows what he wants and he knows exactly how he’s going to get it.
Take this weekend, for example. With the UFC returning to Scotland in July for UFC Fight Night 113, Ray, a Scotsman, was desperate fill a spot on the card, but knew he first had to overcome the sizeable threat of Joe Lauzon, the veteran he faced in April. What’s more, he knew, if he was to accomplish the mission, he’d have to not only defeat Lauzon but do so in a manner that saw him take very little in the way of punishment.
After all, an April to July turnaround is no mean feat in this day and age.
“I prefer a quick turnaround,” Ray told Fighters Only ahead of his fight with Paul Felder this Sunday (July 16) in Glasgow. “When I heard the UFC were coming, the plan was to obviously get myself ready for that. But then I had one before it and it was quite close.
“I did the same in 2015 as well. I had a fight in April and then had a fight in July. I won both of them.
“It’s gone the way I’ve planned it so far. I got the win over Lauzon, then got over any little injuries or niggles and got straight back into fight camp.
“If I wasn’t on this card, I’d probably be sat at home depressed watching it. I’m delighted that isn’t the case and that I’m healthy and ready to perform in front of the Scottish fans.”
Once getting wind of Ray’s desire to fight in front of his home fans, Paul Felder, Sunday’s American opponent, was only too happy to oblige. He, too, fancied a trip overseas to Glasgow, having never before competed professionally outside (north and south) America.
So keen was Felder, in fact, he even went out of his way to make his interest known on social media, an approach that saw him exchange a number of friendly tweets with Ray in the aftermath of the Scotsman’s Lauzon win.
“I think Felder was one of the guys who called me out,” said Ray. “He said he wanted that fight and wanted to fight in Glasgow. I don’t think he just got the fight from doing that, though. I’m sure his manager contacted the UFC and tried to seal the deal.
“I fought on the same card as Felder in Brazil (in September 2016). He was fighting someone else, but I knew then that he was one of the guys I would one day probably eventually meet.
“He’s just another guy on the way. He presents different challenges and has different skills to some of the other guys and I’ve got to try and exploit his weaknesses and get past him.”
So far in his six-fight UFC career, Ray, 21-6, has figured out the challenges presented to him by Joe Lauzon, Ross Pearson, Mickael Lebout, Leonard Mafra and Marcin Bandel, and has only suffered defeat once, to Brazil’s Alan Patrick. What makes his fight with Felder so enticing, though, at least for Ray, is that he gets a chance to go up against a striker, someone he is almost certain will choose to stand and trade punches and kicks with him from first bell to last. This makes for action. It also offers Ray the chance to unveil his complete repertoire.
“He’s predominantly a striker and he likes a little bit of brawling,” he said. “But I don’t feel like his strengths are my weaknesses. I like to strike. It’s just about being better; being faster, being stronger, being more precise and being in better shape than him.
“I feel like if I went in there and it isn’t working on my feet, I can also maybe use my wrestling that I haven’t really used in my UFC career so far. My last opponent was a BJJ black belt and the guy before him was a Brazilian guy and a black belt. It’s all about showing different stuff and fighting differently depending on the opponent. I feel well-rounded enough to show something different every time.
“I want to start getting stoppages again. At the start of my career I was stopping guys all the time. I know it’s different now. I’m in the UFC, the opponents are getting tougher and it’s not as easy to go out there and just stop someone. The opponents are at en elite level and tough. But it’s always the plan to go out there and stop the guy; knock him out, take him out. If that happens, cool. If it doesn’t happen, though, I just have to make sure I’m better in every area of the fight to win a decision.”