It has been almost a year since Stevie Ray last stepped inside the Octagon but the lightweight contender is set to make his long awaited return to action when he faces Alan Patrick at UFC Fight Night: Cyborg vs Lansberg in Brazil on Saturday night.
Injury setbacks have kept Stevie on the sidelines since he dismantled Mickael Lebout in Dublin last October but Scotland’s finest is now 100% healthy, raring to go and suggests Patrick is just another man getting in the way of where he wants to be in this sport.
Stevie said: “I know he is quite a tall fighter and has a decent range advantage over me but he doesn’t use his reach well. He isn’t the best striker to be honest and looks quite uncomfortable in there.
“He might fancy his chances standing with me but as soon as I belt him with my left hand or land a right hook he will soon change his mind. In fact he will probably try and take me down as he will have seen I have been submitted in the past and he is a BJJ black belt.
“He just rushes at you to take you down but there is not a lot of technique to his wrestling or take-downs. He just wants to get you down, look for the submission or use his weight to lie on you and grind out a decision.
“I will need to respect that he is a black belt but I don’t think he looks that great on the canvas; he looked quite sloppy in his fight with Damien Brown. You never want to end up on your back in MMA but I will prepare for it, I prepare for all aspects of how a fight could go but my take down defence is really sharp and I can get back to my feet pretty quick too.
“I am mindful that I am fighting a Brazilian in his own country so if it goes to decision I might end up getting robbed. That thought has given me the hunger to go in there and knock him out, I will need to finish him or at least totally dominate him. It can’t be a close fight”.
This will be Stevie’s first trip to Brazil but travelling far and wide is not something that will faze Stevie at all. He said: “Fighting in Brazil is not really going to affect me at all; I have travelled all over the world. I actually feel that not fighting at home brings out the best in me. Look what I did to Marcin Bandel in Poland. If anything there is more pressure on him to perform in his own back yard”.
The long lay off might mean ring rust for some fighters but Stevie reckons it has only given him the chance to evolve as a fighter and bring his skills to a new level. Stevie said: “It will be 11 months since I last stepped into the Octagon but I have had time off before and it hasn’t affected my performance. The mental side to fighting doesn’t get to me; I don’t get any jitters or anything like that. I am ready to fight at any moment, any day and any time.
“I have been able to focus on improving a lot, when you are in fight camp all you do is get sharper and ready for a fight but when you are not in fight camp you are able to be in the gym, get the Gi on to try new things. That’s how you improve. I’m not the type that is the same in each fight, I have been working on new stuff and hopefully the fans will get to see that in Brazil”.
At the start of 2016 Stevie hoped to get another three fights under his belt and despite his fight coming at the end of September, the 26 year old still has hopes of hitting that target: Ray said: “I’m not looking past this fight but if I do get a quick KO or come out of the fight uninjured, I will be letting everyone know I will be ready to go again. If an opportunity came up two weeks later in Manchester then I will fight. At the very least I will be looking for the Belfast card but I will take this fight first and see what happens”.
Watch Stevie in action at UFC Fight Night: Cyborg vs. Lansberg live on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30pm BST on Saturday, September 24.