KIRKCALDY fighter Stevie Ray has long dreamed of making it to the Ultimate Fighting Championship to compete against the cream of the mixed martial arts world.
And while he has his sights set on winning a place on the next season of the UFC’s reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter, he must first negotiate a tricky test against Qasim Shafiq this Saturday at On Top 5 at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.
Ray is ranked as Scotland’s number-one MMA welterweight and after the bout with Shafiq, he plans to drop down to lightweight to give himself a size advantage in his quest to reach the UFC.
He lost his last fight at welterweight, against the highly-rated Swede Assan Njie in Dubai, and wants to make amends with a win on Saturday.
The Ultimate Fighter try-outs are just weeks away, but Ray won’t allow that to distract him from the task at hand.
The 22-year-old said: “Training for this fight has been going really and I’m already fighting fit as I had a Muay Thai fight two weeks ago.
“I’m training down at the Kaobon gym in Liverpool so I’m getting the best of training and sparring.
“The loss to Njie has made me realise if I want to progress in the sport I need to be training full-time and at a good camp with other pro fighters, which I am now doing.
“I took the Njie fight on 12 days notice and on a big show which I think played some part in my defeat. But Njie was top class and beat me fair and square and it made me realise I should drop to lightweight, which I am now in the process of doing.
“I’ve not seen much of Shafiq at all but from what I do know he comes out aggressive and strong and looks to finish his opponents.”
Ray is always one of the most popular and exciting fighters on the card whenever he steps into the cage.
And it does not bode well for Shafiq that Ray has bounced back from each of his three defeats in spectacular fashion.
He said: “Winning this fight would take me into double figures for wins and make my record 10-3.
“It’s just before The Ultimate Fighter trials which I will be attending so I’m focused on winning.
“Coming off a loss, I have always come back and won convincingly so I’ll be planning to do the same again.
“I’m confident I will take the win in this fight. I’m preparing for the worst which, in my head, is a three-round war, but with me still coming out as the winner.
“I feel I have the skills to win in a few different ways but we will just have to wait and see which way I decide to go on the night.”