Scottish lightweight Stevie Ray had an incredible first year in the UFC. Three fights, two TKOs and one $50,000 â€˜Performance of the Nightâ€™ bonus made 2015 the best of his life.
Up to now, this year has been less kind to â€˜Bravheartâ€™. The cancellation of his bout with Jake Matthews during International Fight Week due to visa complications meant heâ€™s sat on the sidelines throughout 2016. But that will change on Saturday when he finally returns to action in the featured bout on the Fight Pass portion of UFC Fight Night 95 in Brazil against Alan Patrick.
Ahead of his first fight in 11 months, Fighters Only talked to the Kirkcaldy in Fifeâ€™s finest fighting export.
Fighters Only: How much are you looking forward to getting back in action?
Stevie Ray: Itâ€™s a big fight and Iâ€™m glad theyâ€™ve put me as the featured bout. Obviously, the main card is always better, but they know Iâ€™ve got a fanbase here (in the UK) and they know Iâ€™m going to pull in good numbers.
I think Iâ€™ll be fighting at about half past 12 (UK time), which is good because one of my sponsors is a nightclub over here, Society. Theyâ€™re going to be showing it and Iâ€™ll have a lot of people going there.
It doesnâ€™t matter whether itâ€™s Fight Pass or the main event â€“ Iâ€™m just looking forward to getting in there, fighting and getting back in the mix with all the other fighters.
FO: Are all your visa issues behind you?
SR: Aye. It takes a good bit of time to get a visa. Itâ€™s not as simple as getting a visa to visit a country. To get a working visa is a lot more hassle. Youâ€™ve got to go to embassies and stuff. It takes a bit of time to get through the process â€“ Iâ€™m still in the process of doing it because it takes three to six months.
But Iâ€™ve got my visa for Brazil, thatâ€™s all good to go. Then Iâ€™ll hopefully fight in Belfast after that, so I wonâ€™t have to worry about any visa stuff for that. The one after that, it would be perfect to get a fight in Vegas.
FO: Is your goal still to fight in America
SR: Well aye. The long-term goal is to make as much money as possible, knock everybody out and be a millionaire.
FO: What kind of a position has not fighting put you in â€“ in terms of your career and financially?
SR: A pretty bad position, to be honest. Iâ€™m in debt (laughs). Iâ€™m lucky I made a good bit of money last year and fought three times in seven months â€“ and I got a bonus as well. Letâ€™s just say Iâ€™m due the tax man a lot of money and Iâ€™ve just bought a house. I bought that before my last fight got cancelled â€“ the Vegas one â€“ so I was expecting a big pay, so itâ€™s put me in a sticky situation.
Itâ€™s my own fault because thatâ€™s the tough thing when youâ€™ve got a job like mine. You only get paid when you fight, so any time I get paid Iâ€™ve got to keep my money because itâ€™s got to last a certain amount of time. When Iâ€™ve got Â£2,000 worth of bills every month itâ€™s really complicated trying to play around with all thatâ€¦ But aye, Iâ€™m broke basically until I knock this Brazilian out on Saturday.
FO: So a â€˜Fight of the Nightâ€™ and â€˜Performance of the Nightâ€™ bonus would be useful?
SR: Aye. Never mind the 50 Gs, Iâ€™m looking for 100. I just canâ€™t wait to get back in there, get back in the mix, make money and enjoy some food after that. Itâ€™s been a long training camp (laughs).
Itâ€™s been a stressful year. Last year was one of the best years of my life â€“ this yearâ€™s been stressful as hell. Iâ€™ve made no money in 11 months, so obviously, Iâ€™m hoping to finish the year with a few wins, make a bit of money and get back to having a good life.
FO: Youâ€™ve described your previous UFC fights as your easiest â€“ do you think this will be too?
SR: Every single fight, you train as if itâ€™s going to be your hardest. The other guyâ€™s training to knock you out or win in devastating fashion, so youâ€™re training your absolute hardest to make sure that doesnâ€™t happen and you do it to him. I never expected any of my fights to be easy, but it becomes easier, because the harder you train, the easier itâ€™ll be.
Iâ€™m training for a three-round war. Iâ€™m prepared to be all blood and bruised â€“ still getting the win. But if I knock him out in the first second of the first round â€“ happy days.
FO: Do you think Alan Patrick will cause you many problems?
SR: He does weird stuff. Heâ€™s got a kind of capoeira background, so he does weird spinning stuff. Heâ€™s long and has a strangely weird reach for not being the tallest of fighters, so heâ€™s one of these awkward guys whoâ€™s going to try and grind out a decision on me â€“ lie on top of me and try and use his weight.
I just try and visualize everything. Youâ€™ve got to visualize the bad points of the fight and the good parts â€“ me getting back up, me submitting him. I can see loads of stuff. I can see me knocking him out and just dominating him, I can see me winning a close decision and then sometimes the bad bits start creeping in your head, like him winning, but you just say, â€˜No, you go away.â€™ But it happens all the time.
Watch Stevie in action at UFC Fight Night: Cyborg vs. Lansberg live on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30pm BST on Saturday, September 24.
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