Scotland’s Stevie Ray has been a fighter reborn in the PFL.
The 32-year-old from Kircaldy captured championships in BAMMA and Cage Warriors in the UK before eventually signing for the UFC in 2015.
His 11-fight run saw him go 7-4 with the promotion, picking up wins over the likes of Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson before he announced his retirement from the sport in 2019.
During his time away from the cage, Ray regrouped, refocused and rebuilt a knee damaged during his time in the octagon. Then, back to full fitness again, Ray decided to make a comeback.
“Two to three years ago, I was told that I had injuries that I might never fight again,” Ray said.
“I then overcame that, proved everyone wrong, and now I feel like I’m in my prime.”
The PFL snapped up the Scot for the 2022 season but, perhaps understandably after two and a half years away, his first fight back didn’t see “Braveheart” at his best.
A unanimous decision defeat to Alexander Martinez left Ray under the gun heading into his crucial second regular-season bout, and the opposition couldn’t have been tougher – former UFC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, who was on form after a triangle choke finish of Myles Price in his first regular season bout.
The odds looked stacked against Ray but, in typical style, the Scot stepped up and produced the biggest performance of his career when it mattered most.
A modified twister in the second round forced Pettis to tap for only the second time in his career, and Ray had punched his ticket to the playoffs in dramatic, highlight-reel fashion.
In a strange twist of fate, Ray’s progression meant that his bout in the playoffs would come against the man he had just defeated. This time Pettis was well aware of the Scot’s underrated ground game, but the former UFC champ still couldn’t stop Ray from claiming a second successive victory, this time via unanimous decision.
“I loved getting to Pettis,” Ray recalled.
“I submitted him with quite a unique submission that nobody had seen, and it went a little bit viral. Then obviously I went and beat him again.”
Ray’s second win not only proved his first win was far from a fluke, it also propelled him into the $1 million PFL 2022 lightweight final, where he’ll take on Canada’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier, another former UFC veteran who defeated two former PFL lightweight champions, Natan Schulte and Raush Manfio, en route to the final.
“Olivier is a good fighter,” said Ray.
“But, like every fighter, he has his weaknesses, and I don’t believe he wants this as much as me.”
For Ray, the PFL has been the chance to reignite a fighting career many believed was over back in 2019. Now fully established as one of the promotion’s best at 155 pounds, “Braveheart” has the chance to make history by becoming the first Scottish fighter to capture a major MMA world championship.
“I’m proud to represent my country,” he said.
“Scotland’s not very good at a lot of things when it comes to sport, but yeah, we’re good at fighting. It’s in our blood.
“The first Scottish person to win a major world title – yeah, that’d be massive. It’s my time. Win the belt, win a million dollars, it’s what I was made to do.”
The PFL 2022 Championships take place on Friday, November 25 at the Hulu Theater, Madison Square Garden, New York, and streams live on ESPN+ PPV.