UFC: Stevie Ray on depression, gambling & teaching his daughters to fight

Stevie Ray
Stevie Ray returns to the octagon on Saturday against Brazil's Leonardo Santos

"My car would break down as I couldn't afford a good one and it would cost £500 to get fixed. Because I didn't have money, I'd gamble what I did have to try and make more. And then I'd lose that."

Awaiting the birth of his third child, desperately short of cash and driving a clapped-out car, Stevie Ray was nearly broken by the financial burden of sustaining life as a burgeoning MMA fighter.

The 29-year-old took temp jobs and gambled in a doomed effort to make ends meet, before finally earning his place in the UFC.

Now, Ray has two bouts left on his UFC deal - fights that will likely decide his future. The first of these crucial showdowns comes on Saturday, a lightweight contest against Brazil's Leonardo Santos.

Here, Ray tells BBC Scotland of battling depression, his desire to make "Conor McGregor money" and teaching his daughters how to "handle themselves" on nights out.

'I was depressed, I didn't want to get out of bed'

Since his UFC debut in 2015, Ray has won six of nine bouts, but after being knocked out by Paul Felder in front of a home crowd two years ago, he was left without a contract.

"At the time I didn't really see a light at the end of the tunnel - I was depressed, I didn't want to get out of bed," the Scot says.

"When you have kids and no stable job, bills coming out, trying to train like a champion should but still bring in money as fight promotions didn't pay enough.

"Then my car would break down as I couldn't afford a good one and it would cost £500 to get fixed.

"And I got myself in even more bother sometimes because I didn't have money I'd go and try and gamble some of the money I did have to try and make more. And then I'd lose that."

'I want to make some Conor McGregor money'

Santos will be Ray's 38th MMA opponent. The Brazilian is 10 years his senior and has not fought since October 2016.

He wants to "make a statement", but he knows that these next two fights are likely to determine any future involvements with the UFC.

"I could lose them both and that's me," he says. "I want to get put back in the mix with some of the best guys in the world and making some Conor McGregor money.

"I always thought I'd get there and have all the money in the world, but it doesn't work like that. I've had three knee surgeries since being in the UFC - just cartilage - but that puts me out and you only get paid when you fight.

"Don't get me wrong, there's potentially a lot of money to be made, but a lot of it, you don't see - you get stung with a lot of tax the way we get paid.

"I think I have a good three or four years in me, I don't want to be one of those fighters like Santos still going at 39 and end up brain-dead by the time I'm 50."

Stevie Ray after winning a UFC fight in Glasgow
Ray after winning a fight in Glasgow

'I'd feel a lot better knowing my girls could handle themselves'

In addition to fighting himself, Ray runs the Braveheart MMA gym, where around 50 people train.

He wants his children to try the sport, and learn self-defence skills that could help safeguard them later in life.

"I'd feel a lot better and more relaxed as a dad knowing that if my girls were going out on a Friday night they could handle themselves," he says.

"My son has seen some live fights but not me live yet. I don't think my partner would want them to see it live in case I get beat up."

Top Stories