EXCLUSIVE | Steven Ray recounts tough negotiations with UFC, says he almost signed with another promotion

Steven Ray

After fighting out his previous UFC contract under the advisement of his former manager, there was some doubt as to whether or not rising lightweight contender Steven Ray would re-sign with the promotion. Luckily, the Scottish fighter was ultimately able to hash out a new deal with the UFC, and is now set to return to the cage opposite Kajan Johnson when the UFC touches down in London on March 17.

Speaking on the latest episode of BJ Penn Radio, Ray recounted the turbulent process that led to his new UFC deal.

“I was with another management team,” Ray said on BJ Penn Radio. “Management are there to advise you and keep you right. So, I was advised by my management it was the best idea to fight out of my contract. I did get offered the contract from the UFC [before my fight with Paul Felder] but my management felt that we were worth more, and so we decided to fight out of the contract. I didn’t ever realize that fighting out of the contract was kinda risking my job. I just thought I was risking the price and the contract. I though by fighting out of my contract I’m gonna get a contract straight away, but just not as good money and maybe even a little bit less money than the one they had offered. That was the gamble I was willing to take. You know, if I lose to Felder, I get a less money than [the contract] they’d just offered me. And if I win, we get the money we’re asking for. So I felt it was a good decision to do that, but you know, that was obviously my management telling me this. If I knew that I would be in limbo, and possibly not have a job, and my career would be down that path, then no way would I have fought out of my contract.”

“I made it clear I wanted to stay with the UFC,” a candid Steven Ray continued, before admitting he nearly signed with ACB before inking his new UFC deal. “It was never a case that I was trying to threaten go elsewhere. It’s been such an experience the past few months… It’s been a real learning one, like you said. Well, to be honest, ACB actually offered me a really good, financially good contract. Not as good as the one I’ve just been given by the UFC, so I was at the stage, just before the UFC sign, just before I got the new UFC one, I was close to obviously signing with ACB, because I was given the offer, and wasn’t sure what was happening with the UFC, and it was coming to that stage where I was like, I think I’m gonna have to take this.”

Ultimately, of course, Steven Ray did not sign with ACB. Instead, under the guidance of new manager Ali Abdelaziz, he was able to work things out with the UFC.

“As soon as I started speaking to Ali, to be honest, I just started feeling 100 times better. He even said that he wasn’t sure if he could sign me as a fighter because he had so many other fighters, but he was willing to still help me. So that just shows that he’s a good guy, and he was willing to help me even if he was gonna get nothing out of it, just because of the situation I was in. And then, we came to grow a bit closer, and we were speaking back and forth, he was making me feel mentally way better, and just almost trying to stay positive. He kept saying, ‘Hey, be positive, I think the UFC are gonna offer you a fight for London.'”

“He was there for me,” Ray continued. “It also probably helped that it was one of his fighters that got injured [and forced out of a bout with Johnson], so you could say that if I never came to him, this opportunity might not have come up, because he also manages Rustam, who got injured, so Ali was able to go to Sean and basically rectify the problem before it was even out.”

While the talented Steven Ray is sure to perform well on any stage he fights on, it’ll be great to see him back in the bright lights of the UFC this March 17 in London.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/25/2018.