Every fighter's introduction to MMA is a little bit different. For some, it's the classic "I saw it on TV and was blown away" for others it's the result of a natural progression from another sport like wrestling or kickboxing. For other fighters, it's a bit different. Count former Cage Warriors champion Steven Ray among that last group. He'll be making his UFC debut this Saturday, April 11th, in Krakow Poland. But, before strapping on the gloves to fight Marcin Bandel, Ray spoke to Bloody Elbow about his introduction to MMA and just why he started competing in combat sports in the first place.
"Why MMA? [laughs] I was basically... I used to play football. And when I say football, I think, in America that means soccer. Right, so I used to play football. And there's a guy that I used to know when I was younger, I seen him. And I was just speaking away at him, you know "How you doing?" I seen him down High street and he says what he's been up to, he's been training at this mixed martial arts place. It was, like, a private club. So, he says "Oh, you should come along. You'd be... I could see you having good potential," and so on. Because I used to get in a lot of fights and stuff. Like, out in the street and that. So, it was the usual chat, "You'll be good at it" and all that. Even though... it doesn't even matter... But yeah, I went along.
It was... not that time, it wasn't 'til I'd seen him a second time. He said again, "If you're interested." I said, "You know what, I'm going to go and give it a try." So, I ate my dinner, I remember eating a bowl of pasta, and then I went and picked him and his mate up, and we drove down to this training. I was kind of a bit shocked when I ended up at this house. I went around to this house and it was in his back garden. He had, like, a hut or a cabin in his back garden. Yeah, it was more like a log cabin, kinda. It fit, roughly, six people in it. Not very much.
It was a little bit of a private club, so the coach was saying, "Oh, Dean you should've..." Because the guy's name is Dean; my friend, his name is Dean. And the coach was saying to him, "You should have asked me before bringing somebody along," and stuff. "I'm not taking anyone on just now." He says, "You can sit and watch. I'm taking people on in, say, a month's time. You can sit and watch and see what you think." But, it just so happens that not a lot of people turned up. It was only two people, and one of them ended up injured.
So anyway, I jumped in. He gave me a shot and I was right into the deep end, sparring. I ended up sparring and stuff, he seen potential, and I ended up spewing in his back garden, because I had just ate my dinner. But yeah, anyway, that's basically how it started, right in at the deep end. And then that was it, he told me I could come back the next day and I just kept training. And I trained at that place for about a year, or something. And then he expanded and so on and I had to move to bigger and better places. But aye, that's basically my story entering into MMA."
You can follow Steven Ray over on Twitter: @StevenRayMMA