Being asked to fight a few of days before your child is due to be born might put some fighters in a bit of predicament, but not former Cage Warriors champion Stevie Ray.
If anything, ‘Braveheart’ is using it as motivation for his UFC debut tomorrow night in Krakow when he meets Marcin “Bomba” Bandel—a man who will be keen to impress in his sophomore trip to the Octagon after picking up a first round loss to Mairbek Taisumov back in October.
“I wasn’t really worried about keeping busy because I have my children, I’ve got another baby due in the next few days,” said the Scot. “My partner is due on April 15 so I’m hoping that she’ll be able to hang on for me.
“You never really know what could happen, I could get back home and there could be a two-day old baby waiting there for me. There’s nothing I can do really apart from hope it waits there for me.
“The fact that I might be missing my child’s birth makes me want to take things out on this guy even more. I need to go out there and make it all worth it. I could end up with a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus and that would certainly make it worth my while.
“When you're sacrificing these big moments it does give you that extra motivation, but that’s what makes me different to a lot of the other people that will get in there and compete.”
A lot of European fans were crying out for UFC to sign the Cage Warriors champion after the promotion ran into some trouble earlier this year. Ray admits he was initially worried when he saw the signs of the promotion’s deterioration, but is “delighted” that everything has worked out in the end as he stepped in to take on Bandel on 15 days’ notice.
“I just kept training and I didn’t commit to a fight. I was a bit worried about Cage Warriors when things start to get postponed and other stuff started happening.
“I didn’t know where I was going to fight, I didn’t know who I was going to fight, so I was obviously delighted when I got the UFC’s call. I was ready because I had been helping my teammates get ready for some fights so it worked out well,” he exclaimed.
Another thing that added to Ray’s frustration was the fact that two Irish fighters, Joseph Duffy and Paul Redmond, were signed by the world’s leading promotion while he was seemingly stuck in limbo. Although he gets on well with the fighters and wouldn’t begrudge their signings, Ray believes that the frustration he felt may have even given him extra motivation in the lead up to the his debut.
“Yeah, it was hard to see a lot of the other guys getting signed, but in a way it kind of motivated me. I was kind of thinking ‘well if these guys have got signed, they’ll surely pick me up’—these guys fought in my weight class and I’m the champion. It was mixed emotions really because I was happy for the guys who did get signed – it wasn’t their fault that they got signed. It was frustrating though,” he said.
As for Bandel, Ray is expecting the Polish submission specialist to take the action to the ground as soon as possible, but he is also expecting him to have some trouble executing the task.
“I’ve had a look at him and he’s good in certain areas, well actually, he’s really good in certain areas but he’s not so good in other areas. I have a feeling he’s going to try and take me down and get me in one of those leg locks that he seems to like.
“He’s a submission guy, he is comfortable off his back. He likes to do unorthodox stuff like jump guard and invert under your legs. I have a feeling he will be trying to take me down but I’m no slouch on the ground either. I feel like he will struggle to get me down but even if he did, I know what I’m doing down there. I’m confident wherever the fight goes.”
Finally, with UFC making their first trip to Scotland on July 18, Ray gave his thoughts on what to expect from the Scottish fans at the SEE Hydro Arena.
He said: “There is going to be a lot of noise. It’s really going to have a crazy atmosphere. We’re kind of like the Irish in so far as we like fighting and we like drinking so I think it could be a lot like the show in Dublin. Really noisy, a great atmosphere and it should be a great night.”
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