Stevie Ray’s remarkable ascent as one of Scotland’s biggest name fighters will continue when the UFC returns to Glasgow next month.
The Kirkcaldy competitor, one of the most exciting prospects in the lightweight division of the world’s top mixed martial arts franchise, takes on American Paul Felder at the SSE Hydro on Sunday, July 16.
It will be the second time Ray has featured in front of a 13,000 sell-out home crowd following his KO victory over Leonardo Mafra in Glasgow in 2015, which earned him a $50,000 performance bonus.
“2015 at the Hydro was the highlight of my career,” the 27-year-old told the Press. “It will be hard to top that but I’m sure this one is going to be something else as well. It’s going to be another crazy night, with a lot of passionate Scottish fans.
“My preparation will be pretty much the same as always and I’ll train in every area. My coach will give me certain things to work on. We’ll be watching tapes, looking for weaknesses, some things to exploit, and we’ll just drill that.
“I’m not going to be learning any new techniques, just getting better at techniques I already know and get them as sharp as possible, get really fit, and be prepared to do three five minute rounds.”
Ray was first introduced to MMA in his late teens when a friend invited him to train with local coach Jim McKelvey in what was effectively a converted back garden shed in Kirkcaldy.
The former St Andrews HS pupil was immediately hooked on the sport and his meteoric rise has taken him from a relative unknown outside his home town, to a household name with Scottish fight fans.
“I have days when I don’t get noticed, then there’s other times when I do,” he said.
“I was walking around Glasgow last week and a couple of people stopped me to ask for a selfie. It’s pretty cool. I’m sure it’s only going to get bigger, especially if I keep doing well and get to the top.
“It’s cool to be representing a small town like Kirkcaldy and even Scotland on a wider stage.”
Since joining the UFC, Ray has fought in places such as Brazil, Poland and America, racking up five wins and one defeat. Just last month, he received an all expenses paid trip to the UFC’s new Athlete Retreat in Las Vegas, complete with its own restuarant, hospital, gym, cryotherapy chamber and swimming pools.
It’s all part of the lifestyle he now enjoys as part of a billion-dollar industry, but he hopes his upcoming fight could earn him a bigger slice of the pie.
“It’s great to take advantage of some of the cool things about being a UFC fighter, getting to see the world, but I’ve got goals and plans in my head,” he said.
“My next goal is just to get past Paul Felder, then I’m due to renew my contract with the UFC so I’ll be in really good position to negotiate.
“I’ve just beaten two big names - Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon - so I’ll be able to show them what I bring to the table, and it will be time to ask for the big bucks.
“This fight can set me up for the next big step of my career, and hopefully a top 15 opponent.”
A limited number of tickets are still available for UFC Glasgow but the event is expected to sell out.