SCOTTISH MMA star Stevie Ray’s whirlwind start to his UFC career is set to continue on October 24th when he squares off against Frenchman Mickael Lebout at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.
Speaking exclusively to MMA-Freak.com’s Tom Heffernan for Scottish newspaper the Daily Record Ray breaks down his upcoming fight and explains how he feels he can be Scotland’s answer to the UFC’s Irish superstar Conor McGregor.
April 2015 marked the start of a journey Stevie Ray had always wished for, a surprise call from his management team led to the former Cage Warriors world champion making his long awaited UFC debut in Krakow, Poland, where he pounded Polish submission specialist Marcin Bandel to take home an impressive TKO stoppage, despite taking the fight on only two weeks notice.
Then, only a few months later, Stevie stole the show at UFC Glasgow by knocking out the dangerous Brazilian Leonardo Mafra in front of 11,000 passionate Scots fans at the SSE Hydro – scooping the $50,000 performance of the night bonus.
Ray said: “It’s really amazing to think that I’m now in the UFC and have two stoppages, even although I always believed in myself that I would make it to the UFC, it’s all still surreal that I’m actually living what I had always dreamed of.”
The UFC clearly like what they have seen so far of the Scottish Lightweight who is now set to make his third appearance inside the Octagon in only six months against Mickael Lebout in Dublin. Ireland’s capital city is familiar territory for Stevie having fought there previously for Cage Warriors and whilst he hopes to once again receive the support of the locals, Ray is known for having a huge fan base in Scotland and knows plenty of them are making the journey across the water: “The Irish are passionate like us Scots and I believe I will have them on my side, but there is also a load of Scottish going over so you will certainly hear the Stevie ‘f#cking’ Ray chant again.”
Ray’s opponent, Lebout, is somewhat of a familiar face having also fought on both the Krakow and Glasgow cards alongside Stevie: “Mickael lost by decision in Poland but obviously won in Glasgow. He is in the UFC so has got to be one of the best guys in the world, I will of course be training for a three round war but I haven’t seen anything that particularly worries me.” Referring to the fact that more than half of the Frenchman’s fights have gone to decision the Scot said: “A lot of folk thought Mickael’s fight in Glasgow was quite boring, and I don’t do boring so one of his fights at least will be exciting. I believe I will stop him with either my striking or by submission.”
And when the UFC are deciding where the performance of the night cheque should be awarded, Stevie is fairly confident he will be at the top of their list of candidates: “I believe with my fighting style I don’t need to go looking for the bonuses,they will come looking for me.”
Having been a multiple time world champion on the regional circuit, most notably with Cage Warriors and BAMMA, Stevie is used to having a championship belt around his waist and will certainly be looking to challenge for UFC gold when the time is right: “Anything I do I like to be the best, but I want a long career and don’t want to rush anything and risk being cut. UFC champion is certainly the long term goal but I’m just taking each fight as it comes.”
One of the UFC’s biggest stars is current Irish featherweight interim champion Conor McGregor, ‘The Notorious’ McGregor has taken the world of MMA by storm, not just because of his performances inside the Octagon, but also winning over fans with his charismatic personality that has seen him likened to Muhammad Ali. Whilst Ray admits he does not conduct himself in the same way as Conor does outside the Octagon, he does take inspiration from how their early MMA careers have shared similar paths: “I look to what Conor has done and whilst he has obviously got there a bit faster because of how he speaks as well as fights, he was the Cage Warriors champion the same as me and then made it to the UFC. Both of us didn’t have very much money before either.” Conor was famously on benefits before being signed up to the UFC. Ray went on to say: “I think we have a similar fighting style and I think we are also similar in terms of how our minds work. It would be cool to follow in his footsteps.”
Stevie spends time training both here in Scotland and also at the world renowned Tristar MMA Gym in Montreal Canada where he met fellow Lightweight contender Joe Duffy. ‘Irish’ Joe is headlining the card in only his third UFC fight having originally gained notoriety as the last man to beat Conor McGregor. Talking of their relationship Stevie said: “I didn’t really know Joe before Tristar but he was a potential opponent when I was Cage Warriors champion before he left MMA for pro boxing, I think he would have been the next number one contender but in the end we never fought. Joe is a really nice guy and we have become friends so I’m looking forward to seeing him again in Dublin.”
Watch Stevie in action at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Duffy in Dublin. Tickets on sale Friday, September 4th via Ticketmaster.
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Stevie Ray pics via Stevie Ray’s official Facebook page.