Stevie Ray suffered the downside of free agency
The rise of Bellator MMA, and to a lesser extent ONE Championship, ACB, Brave CF, KSW among others means that fighters in the UFC have alternatives to the contract offered them. Some UFC fighters have found better offers elsewhere, and fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez have secured far better contracts than they would have if the UFC was the sole game in town.
The UFC typically offers a new 3 or more fight contract prior to the last fight on the fighter’s previous contract. However, some fighters hold out, hope to win their final fight, receive offers from multiple organizations, and then negotiate the best deal possible. However, it doesn’t always work out.
Scotland’s Stevie Wray started fighting professionally in 2010 and by 2013 was the CWFC lightweight champion. He signed with the UFC in 2015, went on a three-fight win streak that included a performance bonus, lost one, then won two more including one over the UFC performance bonus king Joe Lauzon in April of 2017.
The UFC offered him a contract but he declined to sign, fought out his contract, which ended in a loss to Paul Felder in July of 2017. Wray hasn’t fought since. Eventually, he got new management and signed the same contract that was offered to him previously. And now he has a fight, vs. Kajan Johnson at UFC Fight Night 127 on March 17.
“Basically I was with another management team and they thought it was a good idea to fight out my contract,” said Ray to Damon Martin for MMAWeekly. “Speaking to Ali [Abdel-Aziz] after that, he explained to me how free agency only works really well for a few fighters. Even though I had a pretty good record, I feel it only really works for really big names or really big personalities. I think I should have signed the deal that was offered before I fought it out. I still ended up with a good deal with the UFC.
“The thing is I wouldn’t have been in limbo for so long so it was just bad advice from my old management team.”
“I wanted to stay with the UFC. Even at that, the UFC offered me a really good contract before I fought out my deal but my management told me I was worth a lot more and if I beat Felder, we could push for it. It was a risk but I didn’t realize I was risking not getting a contract. I never thought that would be an option.”
“I am happy with the deal. The UFC offered me the same deal as before when they could have gone back and offered me something worse just to punish me, It’s good. I’m looking at keep going up though. If I can go 3-0 on this new contract, then it gives me a chance to get an even better deal on my next contract.”
“I learned from it. Now it’s time to get back in there and make a statement.”