Stevie Ray recalls his ’emotional decision’ to retire after embittered UFC


Arlington, TX – Stevie Ray hasn’t competed in mixed martial arts since 2019, but that dry spell will finally end at PFL 1 on Wednesday.

“Just fucking buzz to be back, man,” Ray (23-9) said before the event, during Monday’s media day. “It was a long layoff. Just buzz to be back.

Ray, a former Cage Warriors tournament winner and lightweight champion, got off to a good start when he moved to the UFC in 2015. Right off the bat, he won his first three fights, finishing two of those opponents.

He would have had his ups and downs after that, but when he fought and defeated Michael Johnson in October 2019, it was a co-main event. Yet somehow his run with the promotion went off the rails just as he reached the next level.

“It’s a complicated situation, the whole thing, everything that happened,” Ray told media, including Cageside Press. “I signed a new four-fight contract with the UFC after fighting Michael Johnson. Then my manager, Ali, told me that the UFC wanted to get rid of me or something. To be honest , even I am still a bit confused about the whole thing.

In addition to the seemingly sour UFC on him, Ray was dealing with a nagging injury. “My knee was not very good at the time. I had the knee problem even before the Michael Johnson fight. Then I was paired with Marc Diakiese, I had to withdraw. There was talk to maybe go as a free agent and go somewhere else. So that was the plan. I didn’t really feel like it, and then I finally decided to go as a free agent Then COVID hit, it was quite difficult to fight, to sign with a new company.

Two and a half years later, Ray arrived with the PFL. For a time, however, the Scottish fighter was officially retired, although he admits the move was spurred by the circumstances surrounding his exit from the UFC.

“I wouldn’t say I wanted to retire at all. It was an emotional decision, I was just kind of like ‘f*ck this sport, I’m done’ because of what happened with the UFC,” he admitted. “And now I’m back.”

While Ray was emotionally retired, within days he was at a loss for what to do with himself. Eventually, he found another outlet to feed his competitive urge. “I’ve been busy, since my last fight against Johnson, the Paddy Pimblett [grappling] the match was right before that, and then I went on Polaris against Craig Ewers, a top jiu-jitsu guy. I beat him. So I was able to stay active. Just minus the punch part, Ray added.

When he returns to the cage this Wednesday at PFL 1, Stevie Ray will have a new format to consider. The one that rewards fighters for early saves.

“I’m going to try and knock it out from when I get into it now, because I know, I’m sure if you win two fights by decision, that doesn’t mean you’re going to make it to the playoffs. Ray said of that. “It really depends on how the other fights are going. So yeah, there’s a little more encouragement.

PFL 1 2022 drops April 20, 2022 on ESPN and ESPN+, live from ESports Stadium in Arlington, TX. Watch the full media scrum with Stevie Ray above.


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