Life is all about second chances, but Ray Borg admits he actually had too many of them.
The 28-year-old fighter is now competing in Eagle FC but was long considered an elite flyweight and bantamweight while signed with the UFC, where he once battled Demetrious Johnson for the 125-pound title. Despite all his talent and numerous impressive wins, Borg’s career in the UFC was ultimately defined by a series of botched weight cuts and fight cancellations that eventually led to his release from the promotion.
Looking back, Borg is brutally honest when assessing the mistakes his made regarding the end of his UFC run.
“I went through a weird mental phase when I got cut from the UFC,” Borg explained to MMA Fighting. “I don’t want to say it was depression, but it was just bitterness. I was mad all the time, like, ‘I need to be there! I should be there!’ All the time. All these dudes at flyweight, I beat everybody. [Deiveson] Figueiredo, I’d beat all of them. I promise I beat all of them. I’d get bitter about it, but then, I screwed up and I’m not there.
“Then I started to finally grow a little bit more and get over it, and I realized that I had so many bad cuts and I did so many bad things. I told myself, ‘I’ve just got to win this fight, do it in a good fashion, and I’ll get another chance.’ I’d get another chance, do good, and I just kept getting chances and chances and chances, and I think I took that for granted. I just abused the fact that I was getting more and more chances.”
During his time with the UFC, Borg missed weight four different times and was forced to withdraw from several more bouts for which he’d been booked.
At one point, Borg actually promised to retire if he missed weight again — and then he missed weight again — but obviously he didn’t call it a career.
Instead, Borg just kept repeating the same patterns over and over again, and it’s only through time and maturity that he’s finally able to take full responsibility for his actions.
“Here’s a little crazy thing where I was before that’s going to make people go, ‘whoa’ — I was so immature about handling my outside life in the UFC, and I didn’t party or anything like that,” Borg said. “I just liked to go camping, biking, and when I did do that, I would have a good time. I would eat. I would have some beers with some friends. I wasn’t out clubbing. I hate clubs. But when I was in the UFC and I was fighting at 125 pounds, I would walk around at 163 pounds ... and then try to cut to flyweight because of how not disciplined I was.
“A lot of it had to do with not dieting. I was so caught up with having a good time and going out into the mountains, hanging out with friends and family, that it got to the point where I wasn’t training at all. I wasn’t training consistently at all, which obviously affected my weight.”
When he actually got the chance to fight, Borg was still an incredibly tough out for anybody at flyweight or bantamweight, but it turns out he was mostly getting by on talent rather than training.
“Here’s the thing — all the great fights I had with Casey Kenney, the close fight I had with Ricky Simon — I s*** you not, I didn’t train for months before that,” Borg revealed. “I only trained during fight camp. It got to the point in maturity where it’s like, I’m competing and beating these dudes at a high level, and I’m only training when I have a fight.
“Could you imagine how good I could be if I trained year-round like I’m supposed to? That finally clicked in my head — like, I really could be one of the best in the world if I stopped screwing around outside of fight camp.”
Because he was only training once he got a fight booked, Borg ultimately spent a lot of his time in the gym just shedding all the extra weight he had gained in his offseason.
Once he arrived at fight week, Borg’s body was depleted and the normal methods of weight cutting no longer worked for him, because he had already tortured himself just to get to that point.
“I would do these big kamikaze weight cuts where I’d get booked for a fight, so I’d have 10 weeks to go from 160 pounds to 125 pounds,” Borg explained. “I would literally be cutting weight just to be able to cut weight. I would sit in a sauna and dehydrate myself just so I could wake up at a number that, on paper, would be comfortable to cut weight. I never realized how much damage I was doing, because you can’t cut water weight on the week of the fight if you’ve already cut it out to get to that point.
“It was really, really unhealthy. What made it worse, when I would cut down to 125 even with these big weight cuts, instead of being like, ‘Let’s chill out, let’s not get back up to where I was,’ I would just get right back up again. So I was on this crazy yo-yo, where I think I really just damaged my body doing that.”
As angry as he was at the time when he received his walking papers from the UFC, Borg knows now that he may have never gotten the wake-up call he needed to make serious changes in his life otherwise.
In his last two fights, Borg has given up all of his extracurricular activities and put his full-time attention on training and taking care of his family at home.
“Where I’m at in my career, I’m really mature about it,” Borg said. “I don’t eat ridiculous, and if I do decide that I’m going to eat a little bit bad here and there, I’m at least fine because I’m in the gym. I’m in the gym a lot now. I’m consistent. It started to show in my last two fights.
“I’ve completely eliminated everything. I don’t mountain bike anymore. I don’t do anything that distracts me from training. I literally just train now. That’s a big part of the maturity that I have now as compared to my UFC run.”
Borg really felt the sting when he was released from the UFC, but with a 2-0 record in his last two outings and a chance to make it three in a row against Bellator veteran Ricky Bandejas at Eagle FC 46, he’s really come to appreciate the way fate treated him.
“I don’t regret any of it,” Borg said. “Because I think if I wouldn’t have been cut, even if I got my act together, I don’t think I would have matured the same way.
“Getting cut matured me. As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason — and I think [being cut] needed to happen to me.”