Stevie Ray: UFC fighter says mixed martial arts could earn Olympic recognition

By Jonathan SutherlandBBC Scotland

Scottish fighter Stevie Ray believes mixed martial arts could be recognised as an Olympic sport in future.

Ray is one of three Scots on the card when the Ultimate Fighting Championship comes to Glasgow's Hydro on 16 July.

"It is a mixture of judo, which is an Olympic sport, wrestling, which is an Olympic sport, and boxing, which is an Olympic sport," Ray told BBC Scotland.

"It's not any different to those sports - it's just that in MMA, we're allowed to do all of them at once."

Ray, 27, who hails from Fife, faces a lightweight battle with American Paul Felder in the Glasgow UFC Fight Night.

He says the sport is increasing in popularity, and believes its profile in his homeland will continue to grow with the emergence of more elite Scottish fighters.

"More media are getting involved and more people are going to be watching it, maybe supporting the Scottish fighters," Ray said.

"They're going to start watching other fights as well, because fighting's in Scottish blood, and when there's a match where anything can happen, it's intriguing to watch.

Stevie Ray celebrates beating Leonardo Mafra in their UFC lightweight battle in Glasgow during 2015
Stevie Ray knocked out Brazilian Leonardo Mafra in the first round of their fight when the UFC last came to Glasgow in 2015

"It's always been a really popular sport worldwide, especially in America, people have been saying for a while it's taking over boxing. There are Scottish fighters in the UFC now, so it's making them go out their way to watch it and then get educated on the sport.

"Seven years ago, before I started training, I never knew anything about the sport, and then I fell in love with it."

'It's safer than boxing'

Fellow Scot Paul Craig, who tackles American Khalil Rowntree Jr in the light-heavyweight division, says the sport is not as "brutal" as some may fear.

"Anybody that's ever taken up martial arts will know how violent this sport isn't," Craig said. "As long as you're trained properly, it's not that violent.

"You get very unlucky circumstances where guys get caught and knocked out, and people think, 'that's brutal'. It's safer than boxing; you're not taking those constant punches to your upper body.

"For older people out there who don't want to watch it because they see it as being brutal, give it one watch, watch it with an open mind, just some of these intricate details of the movement of people, the footwork, taking all these martial arts and making them one, it's amazing to watch."

Paul Craig is struck by Tyson Pedro in the Ultimate Fighting Championship bout in Las Vegas
Paul Craig was beaten by Tyson Pedro in his most recent fight - his first defeat as a professional fighter

Craig, 29, has lost just one of his 19 professional fights - his most recent outing in Las Vegas in March ended in defeat when the Scotsman was stopped by Tyson Pedro of Australia.

The Craigneuk-based fighter was in attendance at the Hydro when the UFC last came to Glasgow in 2015 - but was not in the octagon.

"I was focusing on trying to get into the UFC at that point," Craig said. "In the early stages of being a professional, that's all you want to do.

"I was in here as a fan last time - I watched Stevie Ray, Joanne Calderwood, Michael Bisping - now I get to do it, in my home town, that is sweet.

"This would be my first fight in Scotland as a pro, and it's in the Hydro - that's huge. My friends, my family are all going to be in the crowd. Quite a lot of them can't make that journey to places like Las Vegas, Sacramento where I've fought in the past.

"[Preparation] is going to be so much easier here. And after going 18 fights unbeaten, coming up against an opponent and he took my '0', I need to sort that out and work my way back up these rankings to get that top-10 spot again."

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