Ray was last seen in the Octagon back at #UFCBelfast this past November when he defeated fellow Brit Ross Pearson in the co-main event of the evening. With some wind now back in his sails and his US visa issues now sorted, he heads to Nashville this weekend with the intention of making inroads on the #UFC lightweight rankings.
"After I beat Pearson, I called out Diego Sanchez, but I also said I'd like someone like Joe Lauzon, as well," Ray said, speaking exclusively to Champions.co. "After that, the UFC basically came to me and offered me the fight. I'm after exciting fights. I want to get my name out there and fight good guys. I feel like Joe is a good fight for me because he always comes out there looking to bang and put on a good show. I feel that's going to bring out the best in me, and when I beat him, a lot more people will know who I am."
Having had five fights in the UFC already, Ray now feels that it's time he has a breakout performance to put himself on the map globally.
"I'm not just in this sport to make money and be a nobody," Ray said. "I've been working my way up and I'm now 4-1 in the UFC. I've got two fights left on my contract, so I feel like now is the right time to put down a market before I renegotiate it. If I can beat Lauzon with style, then it sets up the good opportunity to get a much better contract."
With Lauzon well known for being a good all round fighter who can finish the fight on both the feet and the mat, Ray is aware he's going to have to be sharp on fight night.
"I'm always in the gym and I'm always focused on making every part of my game better," Ray said. "There is some specific stuff I've been working on for this particular fight, but I can't mention that now. Obviously, a knockout would be ideal, but I'm not looking at it like that. I'm just going to go out there and perform to the best of my ability. Whenever I've done that previously, I've always gotten the result I wanted. If I could choose one way to finish him, it would be just to go out there and finish him with a single punch and knock him clean out. Just coming out with a win, uninjured, and being able to fight on the UFC Glasgow card would be ideal for me."
While hoping for a quick night of work, Ray is well aware that Lauzon isn't the sort that folds easily. The Scotsman knows that Lauzon is as tough as they come at 155-pounds, and he's expecting to be pushed to his limits.
"I know Joe is tough and he's been in a lot of fights and a lot of wars," Ray said. "I'm not expecting to go in there and stop him early--I know I can do it, but I'm not expecting it. In my head, I'm expecting a three-round war, and that's what I'm preparing for."
While Ray's focus lies totally on Lauzon this weekend in Nashville, the Scotsman isn't afraid to admit that the prospect of a spot on the July 19 UFC Glasgow card is an attractive one. Suffice to say, he'd love to fight under the UFC banner for the second time in his home country.
"I'm not looking into it too much right now, but yeah, of course, I'd do anything to fight in Glasgow again," Ray said. "I'm focused on beating Lauzon, renegotiating my contract, and then setting up a big fight for UFC Glasgow. I could headline that card if everything goes to plan. I'm confident I will get the win [against Lauzon], but there are plenty of exciting fights that could be a main or co-main event--why not me against Diego Sanchez? Like I said though, my focus is on Joe and I'll see what happens after that."
Another man creating a lot of noise in the lightweight division is Ray's fellow Brit, Marc Diakiese. The Scotsman has been impressed by Diakiese's UFC run so far, and thinks they could meet down the line in their careers.
"Yeah, I can see it happening," Ray said. "After his last fight, he looked really exciting on the feet and he's obviously an athletic guy. He's making waves, but I think he called out Paul Felder, but then his management have declined it. They're obviously looking to build him slowly, but I'm watching out for him for sure. For the minute, though, I'm fully focused on Joe and then getting a bigger fight after that."
Joe Lauzon vs Stevie Ray goes down this weekend on the main card of UFC Nashville. Featherweights Artem Lobov and Cub Swanson will go head-to-head in the main event.