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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 1 June, 2020

After succeeding him as Cage Warriors champ, Ray's ready to 'make millions like McGregor'

Stevie Ray is one to watch at UFC Dublin.

UFC lightweight Stevie Ray.
UFC lightweight Stevie Ray.
Image: Dolly Clew

THIS TIME LAST year, Stevie Ray was preparing to defend the Cage Warriors lightweight belt that was once in the hands of Conor McGregor.

Tonight, the Scottish star aims for his third successive victory as a UFC fighter when he takes on Frenchman Mickael Lebout at Dublin’s 3Arena.

It took Ray less than a combined time of 10 minutes to dispose of Marcin Bandel and Leonardo Mafra Texeira — his first two opponents in the octagon — and the bookmakers fancy him to secure another convincing win this evening. At 1/5, Ray is the biggest favourite on the UFC Fight Night 76 card.

It’s been a remarkable year for the 25-year-old so far. Twelve months ago, he was struggling to make ends meet. His most recent victory, however, was rewarded with a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. Life is different now and he’s embracing the change.

“It just takes all the stress off your shoulders. Before I got to the UFC, I was working, looking after two — now three — kids, travelling, training and I just couldn’t commit to it as much. Financially it was always a struggle,” Ray explained to The42.

“Now I know that fighting is my job and that’s it, so I can completely focus on that. It’s obviously even more motivating if you know that you can win an extra 50 grand if you go in and put on a show. I’m loving this life since I’ve been signed to the UFC but I still feel like it’s just the start.

“When I was in Cage Warriors, I started out as a prospect and then I became the champion. I’m looking to do the same here; build myself up and make millions like McGregor.”

Stevie Stevie Ray en route to victory against Leonardo Mafra Texeira in Glasgow back in July.

Despite being the overwhelming favourite, Ray will be guarding against complacency. At the highest level, anything can happen if you’re not at the peak of your powers. The Scotsman only needs to cast his mind back to his last fight in Dublin as a reminder.

Carrying an illness into the bout, Ray fought Ivan Buchinger at The Helix on New Year’s Eve in 2013. After dominating the contest for three-and-a-half rounds, he was caught in a rear-naked choke late in the fourth frame and Buchinger snatched the win against the odds.

“There was a couple of times during my career where I’ve been a big favourite or a big underdog, which is all part of the game. But at the end of the day, none of that matters,” Ray said.

“I’m not underestimating my opponent, I know he’s a tough guy, but it’s good for your confidence knowing that the bookies, the fans and whoever else believe I’m going to get the win.”

Ray is also hoping that the fans at the 3Arena tonight will reciprocate the support shown to Irish fighters like Joe Duffy and Paddy Holohan at UFC Glasgow back in July.

“Yeah, I reckon the Irish will get behind me,” he said. “The Irish and the Scots are similar, fighting is in our blood. We gave them good support in Glasgow. I’m fighting a Frenchman, not an Irishman, so hopefully they’ll be on my side.

“I also think my style of fighting suits the Irish better than somebody like him [Mickael Lebout] who just racks up the decision wins. I’ve got plenty of support coming over from Scotland too so there should be a great atmosphere.”

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Paul Dollery

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