Kris McCray with Strike Off Fighting 6 – Being in that cage is kind of like a second home @KrisMccray
Kris McCray has seen more ups and downs in 7 years of competition than most fighters see intheir entire career. McCray (8-5) first burst upon the MMA scene with 15 straight victories across amateur and professional MMA before competing on the eleventh season of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Since then his career has seen him compete in Bellator, CFFC, and the World Series of Fighting. He has not fought since March in 2013, a distinction that makes his return at Strike Off 6 after a 924-day leave of absence all the more intriguing to follow.
Kris spoke to GoFightLive.tv ahead of his main event fight against William Ward (5-5) about his career, staying involved in MMA, and the long journey back into the spotlight after a two year hiatus from competition.
Cameron Morris: Firstly, for the benefit of a lot of our readers on GFL- a lot are familiarwith you from The Ultimate Fighter 11, and they’ve seen you make appearances in a lot of other major promotions in the US like Bellator and WSOF. But you’re coming off a very long from your last fight. This will be your first fight in over two years. Can you tell us a bit about what sparked the long layoff?
Kris McCray: Basically, I had some kids, I moved to Houston after my wife graduated from Columbia. She finished her degree, a master’s degree in Biotechnology in New York. Wanted to start a family so I had a son—Logan—and I have another son on the way, he’ll be here in about 4 days—Liam—so I just wanted to take a break, have some kids, but, you know, my passion is fighting. I do want to get back in the cage… to come back to my home town and, you know, have some friends and family there, you know, get back in there and start over again.
C: To build on that last question, what was the process of getting back to being ready to fight at a professional level again?
KM: I’ve been training within the two years. I never stopped training completely—sometimes I had to, you know, maybe not train as much, you know, pick up the slack here, my wife wasn’t working and stuff like that. But my schedule is a little more routine now, and I have some time available and I’ve been training pretty good for this fight.
I was never removed from the sport completely. I cornered Jimy Hettes a couple times, I still keep in contact with all the fighters, especially theguys from New Jersey, up there with Frankie Edgar and Ricardo [Almeida] andRenzo [Gracie] and those guys. I did some work with Bubba Bush, he’s in theUFC, he’s actually coached my high school wrestling team. I’ve never been totally removed, but I’m just excited to get back in there and have an official fight. You watch it on TV, you miss it, you just wanna get back in there and put some gloves back on.
C: When you were released from the UFC in 2011, one of the main things you spoke a lot about is that you wanted to get that second shot in the UFC one day. Since the time of your release and now, a lot has changed in the UFC since you were last there. We’ve seen a lot of additions in terms of weight classes, and the Reebok sponsorship deal, you’ve seen the expansion of events in Europe, Australia and Asia… Has it been weird to see that sort of growth from the outside, or does it serve as sort of an additional motivation tool to getting back in?
KM: Yeah, definitely, it’s become more mainstream I think. Even though the Reebok and stuff—I kind of believe it’s bad for the fighters, but good long term, you know, I’m not really sure how it’s gonna work out—but I definitely wanted to be part of that organization. I just wanted to get that W in the UFC, you know? So now my goal is—I love this sport, so UFC or not, you know, that’s the pinnacle of what we do, but I’m gonna keep working, man. I like to see stories like Ron Stallings, I trained with him a lot way back, nice guy, he had a couple weird things happen to him in his UFC fights, but I would love stuff like that to happen to me—you know, get that shot, get three more fights, see what happens and just train harder and put in a good show for the fans.
C: We’ve seen a lot of fighters who have had a long journey away from the UFC. They finally get a second chance at fighting in the organization again. Another guy is Joe Riggs—he had his last fight in the UFC in 2006 and he returned over half a decade. Robbie Lawler had a great comeback after rejoining the UFC in 2013- and that was nine whole years. So the precedent is there for fighters to get back after a long layoff, but on theflip side, those guys were all constantly fighting, and their names were still out there. As you mentioned, you were still around the sport, and around with different fighters, but you weren’t at the forefront of the news. This is your first fight back after a long absence, as I mentioned before. A lot of people may have forgotten about Kris McCray, and you’re trying to get them on board for a comeback. As it been tough for you to kind of generate buzz among promoters to kind of get your name out there after all this time?
KM: I mean I’m sure, some promoters, like, they know me, but what value does my name hold now, you know? I can’t hold onto TUF 11 forever, you know, but my career started so fast—I started training, I did ten fights my first year training, my ten amateur fights… The next year I did five pro fights, the next year in the UFC it was like, bam bam bam bam bam, and I really didn’t get a chance to grow as a fighter—just fight after fight after fight. Which was cool until I got to New Jersey and started learning some stuff and doing some things and hitting those roadblocks that fighters have been doing for a while hit.
But I think if you put the time into the sport, it pays you back. So I’m willing to give what I got to the sport, and I’m sure at the end of the day I’ll have no regrets regardless of what happens. I’m gonna give the sport its due because that’s what I love to do and hopefully, I’ll get that call one day and get in there and make some magic happen.
C: For a long time there, you had so much stuff going on with the different fights in such a short amount of time. Not to dwell on The Ultimate Fighter, but during that time, you were fighting like, what, every two weeks or so?
KM: Yeah, every Tuesday I fought. I fought five times in six weeks. And that’s the kind of fighter I am, I can take the hits and I can keep coming forward. That’s how I was raised—just don’t quit. That’s all my dad just told me: “Just don’t quit.” And you never really see me quit in a fight, you know.
I had some fights where I didn’t look as good as the other fights and vice versa. I remember being in a rear naked choke, my legs are bent back, and I’m just like, “I can’t give him this $5000, because if you finish you get $5000 [Submission of the Night bonus].” But I know the more you fight, the more relevant you are, the more fights you have, the more you can generate a buzz. I’m looking to do this one, and maybe some more next year. You know, I’m not a stranger to fighting a bunch of times and I think the more you fight, the more your name’s out there, and there’s a greater chance you have of getting back into the UFC or another big promotion. People will see you and hear about you, and that’s how you generate your buzz. And once you have your buzz… I have the credentials, like Ultimate Fighter, Bellator, WSOF—maybe things will shake up and we’ll see what happens.
C: We talked a little about the different things that have happened in your life since thelast time you fought. How do you feel how you’ve grown over this time as a fighter? Obviously you haven’t had the fight experience, but you’ve had so much time to pick up things over the time.
KM: I just think in the cage there’s a lot of mental going on, and earlier in my career I was fighting to eat, fighting for a paycheck. I was living off my fights; that’s why I was fighting so much, and now it’s not like that. Now I’m calm, I’m in there having fun, just executing what I like to do. Before it felt like it was a rush, I had to grab this guy, I had to squeezehim, make him feel me. Now I’m more of an effective fighter, as you would say.
C: Provided all goes well and you emerge victorious in October, what do you think is next for Kris McCray?
KM: I’m gonna enjoy the holidays and start looking for some new fights next year. I definitely want to stay busy, maybe two or three fights a year—we’ll see what happens. I wouldn’t mind being in my home town or wherever. I just like to scrap and get in there and have fun. I like the whole thing.Cutting weight in training kind of sucks, the fight’s cool, and the lights, and my family, the dinner after you weigh in, all that stuff, it’s like a show every time you have a fight, and I really do enjoy that.
Being in that cage is kind of like a second home.