Kirkcaldy mixed martial arts fighter Stevie Ray claimed the biggest win of his career on Saturday night in the co-main event at UFC Belfast.
After three close rounds, Ray was declared the split decision winner over veteran Ross Pearson to become the UK’s number one ranked lightweight in the UFC.
While two judges scored the contest three rounds to nil, 30-27, in the Fifer’s favour, the third judge saw it completely differently and awarded all three rounds to Pearson.
Ray was confident, however, at the end of the fight that his tactical approach had paid off against the more experienced Englishman.
“I was confident that I had won the fight - I felt like he didn’t really hit me,” he told the Press.
“The only thing he landed on me was a couple of body kicks and some leg kicks.
“I’ll need to watch the fight again and count how many times he hit me in the face - because I don’t think he caught me once.
“I came away with bruised ribs and my legs were a bit sore, but he couldn’t reach me to hit me in the face.
“It was announced as split decision and when the first judge had given him every round, I thought I was going to be robbed!
“A lot of people have been questioning that, wondering what fight he was watching.
“I was half wondering if he maybe got us mixed up, and scored the fight for me, but thought I was Ross Pearson! I don’t know. The main thing is the other two judges scored it for me.”
Ray recognised the importance of a quick return to winning ways after suffering his first UFC defeat in his previous contest against Alan Patrick in Brazil in September.
“I did play it safe a little bit,” he admitted. “I’m looking back and wishing I’d finished him, or maybe committed a wee bit more, but I was coming off a loss, and the UFC has sometimes cut people for losing twice in a row.
“I stuck with the game plan my coach gave me and made sure I got back to winning ways. It was a big name and I took it on short notice so it’s going to help my career, and help me get up there. It also means I get my extra win bonus as well, which is ideal just before Christmas.”
The 26-year-old father of three is now preparing for a family holiday in Gran Canaria before setting his sights on UFC London in March.
“I just called out Diego Sanchez on Twitter so I’m hoping to maybe get that for London,” he said. “His world ranking is a wee bit above mine so it would be another step in the right direciton for me.
“I don’t have to play it as safe now that I’m coming off a win now so I can bite down on the gum shield and go for a knock-out, and try to put a show on for the fans.”
While Ray is ranked the UK’s top lightweight, the world number one in his division is Connor McGregor, one of the most recognised fighters on the planet whose fights attract multi-million dollar purses.
“I just need to keep working my way up until I get a fight with him,” Ray said.
“Hopefully he sticks around long enough - I’m probably five or six fights away from being near any talks about that stuff. It’s one step at a time.”