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UFC Fortaleza’s Ray Borg: Fighting Formiga before contract talks ‘is a big risk’

Ray Borg talks about his shot at cracking into the top five of the UFC flyweight rankings and reveals how his next opponent poses a potential risk to his forthcoming contract negotiations.

MMA: UFC 207-Borg vs Smolka Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the biggest win of his young career, Ray Borg (10-2) enters UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum with a shot at breaking into the elite level of the UFC’s flyweight rankings. Standing in his way this Saturday night is perennial top contender Jussier Formiga da Silva (19-4).

In Borg’s last fight - versus Louis Smolka - the 23-year-old Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter put on a dominating display on route to a unanimous decision victory. Borg told Bloody Elbow that he was mostly happy with his performance, but he can’t help feeling that the victory was tainted by the fact he came in 4lbs heavy for the 125lb contest.

“It’s always hard to enjoy a win, or really see what your win does for you, when you miss weight,” said Borg; whose weight-cut mishap resulted in 30% of his purse going to Smolka. “It kinda takes a lot away from the win,” he sighed.

Borg revealed he is also disappointed that he did not get a finish over Smolka, stating that an exciting knockout or submission might have done a better job of overshadowing the second instance of missing weight in his UFC career.

Borg also admitted to being his own worst critic. He displayed this when picking apart his showing against Smolka.

“I think there’s some things I could have done better. I think I was OK with just kinda beating him up the whole fight. I think there was more that I wanted to do in that fight.” Borg stated that his ability to finish the fight was also hampered after he rolled his ankle midway through the second round. Borg said the pain from the injury was extreme; and that just being in side control was agonizing.

“I rely on my speed, my agility, and my tenacious attacks,” said Borg. “That’s part of my game plan all the time; so the fact that I couldn’t be that agile or as explosive - it definitely took away from what I’m usually able to do.” After the fight the injury was revealed to be a high ankle sprain.

Prior to fighting Smolka in December, Borg had two fights cancelled (one versus Ian McCall and the other versus Fredy Serrano) due to illness and/or injury. Before those disappointments Borg faced Justin Scoggins, at UFC Fight Night: Hendricks vs. Thompson, and lost handily. Borg admitted that the Scoggins loss, teamed with the two canceled fights, put him under a lot of pressure to succeed versus Smolka.

“Things could have made a total turn in the wrong direction for me if I had lost that fight,” said Borg. “Even if I had a boring fight - or an unimpressive fight - it could have been a bad turn for my career; especially coming off that loss to Scoggins. I needed to get in that win column. I needed to let people know that, ‘Hey, I’m still one of the top flyweights in this division and I’m still coming for that belt.’”

After besting Smolka, while having a lot on his shoulders, Borg now faces the UFC’s third ranked flyweight - Jussier Formiga - in Fortaleza, Brazil. With a spot in the top five of the rankings likely on the table, Borg can hardly contain his excitement.

“I’m motivated for every fight, but this fight has a special motivation,” said Borg. “Where it’s going to put me in my career, the doors that are going to open, and the opportunities that are going to come are just going to be unreal and that’s the stuff I’ve been wanting for - for a really long time. It’s the s**t I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid. It’s time to go make it a reality now.”

Formiga is a veteran of eight UFC contests. He holds wins over Zach Makovsky, current title challenger Wilson Reis, and - most recently - Dustin Ortiz. “Formiga’s been in the game a long time. He’s beaten some high-level dudes,” remarked Borg. “So it’s exciting to go in there and face a veteran, and beat someone who has been in that top five spot for so long.”

Borg’s UFC victories include Shane Howell, Chris Kelades, and Geane Herrera; who he took a bloody unanimous decision over in 2015.
Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Borg believes his 31-year-old opponent has failed to adapt over time and that he can exploit this when they face-off in Fortaleza.

“One of the biggest things is that he’s old,” said Borg. “And when I say ‘old’, I mean he’s the same. He’s been the same fighter [over his UFC career]. His striking has gotten a little bit sharper, but he’s still known for his jiu jitsu. And really, I’m not the most ideal style of fighter for his jiu jitsu.”

“I’ve been dealing with his jiu jitsu at a high-level since I was a kid,” continued Borg. “Doing jiu jitsu tournaments as a kid up until now: I was always a ‘savvy scramble-y’ grappler and I always had to go against these high-level black-belts who were straight jiu jitsu players. So I know how to deal with these types of jiu jitsu players, way more so than what most guys [Formiga’s] fought.”

Before the Smolka fight, Borg left his longtime head coach and manager Tom Vaughn of FIT NHB in Albuquerque. He switched crosstown to Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn for coaching. For management, he signed up with Ali Abdelaziz. With Borg’s current UFC contract winding down, he and his new team had a critical decision to make in taking the Formiga fight.

“It’s one of the last fights on my contract before we try and renegotiate,” claimed Borg. He and his team were unsure if taking on a top three opponent was the wisest decision with contract talks just around the corner. Borg’s team tried to get someone else, an opponent Borg had covered for sometime, but that fighter was booked. “So we looked at Formiga and we watched a bunch of tape and we were like, ‘You know what? We can beat this guy. There’s no reason in the world why we can’t beat this guy.’ So we accepted the offer. I let my ankle rest a little bit and then I got into camp.”

“It’s a big risk,” admitted Borg. “This whole sport is about taking risks. So - on paper - it looks like I’m taking a risk fighting someone whose beat so many tough guys, but the way I’m looking at it is: where I want to go with my career, this is just skipping a couple of steps.”

Helping Borg counteract the risk of Formiga is his new teammate John Dodson, who beat Formiga by TKO in 2012. According to Borg, Jackson and Winkeljohn’s game plan they devised for handling Formiga five years ago has formed the basis of his own strategy versus the Brazilian. You can see if Borg and his coaches’ plan succeeds this Saturday night when he battles Formiga on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum, live on FOX Sports 1.