It was unknown if Stevie Ray would ever fight for the UFC again after he chose to test free agency ahead of his defeat to Paul Felder at UFC Glasgow.
After eight months on the sidelines, the Scot finally returns to the Octagon when he meets Kajan Johnson at UFC London on Saturday night.
“Braveheart” admitted that he was in a bad situation for some time as he waited for the UFC’s call. At one stage, he even admitted he would likely retire from the sport if the promotion didn’t offer him a new contract.
Although he was elated to get another opportunity in the Octagon, he revealed that he found a way out of his “dark place” through coaching before he was offered a new deal.
“Even before I got the call for the fight, I got out of that dark place and I was really enjoying my coaching,” said Ray at Thursday’s media day.
“I might not have been training as much as I was when I was in a fight camp, but I was still training and I think that made me a lot happier. Once the contract came, that kind of put the cherry on top.”
Ray is adamant that his time as a free agent has motivated him more than ever.
“It’s lit a fire inside of me,” said Ray. “I feel really motivated and I’ve been enjoying getting ready to fight. I’ve been happy for the whole fight camp and a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter. I’m going to enjoy the fight week too apart from being a bit hungry.”
As he sees it, there is far less pressure on him ahead of UFC London, given that his defeat to Felder took place in front of his home crowd.
“There really isn’t as much pressure. For that last fight, I was coming to the end of my contract and I was fighting at home — there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that,” Ray said. “There will always be pressure when you’re fighting in front of thousands of people, but once I get in there and give everything 100 percent, everything else becomes irrelevant.”
Ray and his UFC London opponent share an interesting dynamic. Ahead of their fight, the former Cage Warriors champion appeared on Johnson’s podcast. He also shared training sessions with the Canadian at Tristar and revealed that they have exchanged messages in the past.
“I did his (podcast), but it was somebody else that I was talking to. He messaged me on Twitter a long time ago, and he messaged me only recently too,” said Ray.
“At the end of the day, I know the guy. We’ve trained together at Tristar, but it still feels the same. I’m not treating him any different than any other opponent. I would always shake my opponent’s hand and say hello anyway.”
Despite being on good terms, Ray won’t hesitate to pull the trigger when they’re locked in the Octagon.
“I might grab a beer with him afterwards, but I’ll still punch his head off once we step in the cage,” he added.
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