After his latest withdrawal from a fight, Ray Borg figured he knew what would come next, so he text messaged UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to let him know he was OK with it.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, if you guys let me go, and I’m cut, thank you for believing in me. Thank you for giving a kid like me who comes from nothing a shot. I ain’t mad at you. I understand,’” Borg said in an interview with Sherdog published Wednesday. “I knew it was coming. I knew I was on thin ice to begin with given recent situations.”
As he predicted, Borg was released from the UFC in early August. What followed, by his own admission, was weeks of depression, which led to the former UFC flyweight title challenger announcing this past Thursday, Aug. 27, that he was retiring from MMA.
Borg eventually deleted his post on social media and has reversed course one week later. He won’t be retiring after all.
“To be truly honest, my depression and stress got the best of me, and I was really in it that day. I was just done. I just didn’t want much more of the sport,” Borg said of his initial announcement. “I have a family. I have a wife, I have a son, and the first thing I thought to myself was, ‘I let myself get cut from the UFC, and I’ve got to put food on the table. I’ve got to provide, keep the lights on. I think the best thing to do for myself and my family is to straight up get 9-to-5 (job).’ As gut wrenching as something like that is to say, I’ve got a son. He’s got medical bills. He has MRI check-ups and things like that. I’ve got to provide for him, and I’ve got to make sure that’s OK. So my first thought was, ‘I’ve got to call it quits. I’ve got to be done, and I’ve got to just live that blue-collar life.’”
What changed Borg’s mind? He said it was two things: the reaction from both kids he used to train and his wife.
“I had intentions on retiring. I really did,” Borg said. “But I started getting messages from people, and the ones that really hit me hard were messages from kids who I used to coach and train, young kids who come from troubled beginnings and things like that. And I always strived and told them to work hard, and they can get themselves out of the gutter. And I had some kids message me saying, ‘Hey, coach, you can’t retire. You taught me to be tougher than that. You’re too young. You have too much skills. You can’t retire. It’s too soon for you. You’re only 27.’
“Then I talked to me wife, and to be honest, my wife didn’t really know I decided I was going to retire. So she comes at me (and asks), ‘What are you doing? Why are you retiring?’ I was like, ‘I have to. I’ve got to pay the bills for you guys.’ And she’s like, ‘Nah, you can’t.’ And she let me know I owe it to my son. I can’t have my son look at me in 10 years and tell me, ‘Dad, why’d you quit?’ I’m one of the most talented guys in the world, I feel. On a good day I’m unbeatable. I just couldn’t do it. I owe it to too many people to get myself out of this gutter and try to make it.”
It’s been a tumultuous three years for Borg. He was set to challenge then 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson in September 2017, but the fight was pushed back one month after Borg withdrew because of an illness. Borg lost to Johnson at UFC 216 by fifth-round submission, and from there Borg hit pitfall after pitfall.
His scheduled UFC 223 fight with Brandon Moreno in April 2018 was canceled after Borg was injured by broken glass from a bus window during the infamous Conor McGregor media day rampage. The Moreno fight, although rescheduled for May, never materialized after Borg withdrew to take care of his son born with a brain condition.
Over the next two years, Borg withdrew from two more fights for various reasons, weighed in heavy twice – at bantamweight and flyweight – and went 2-2, all leading to his release from the UFC after losing to Ricky Simon in May.
Despite what often seemed like tough luck, Borg admitted to feeling too comfortable with the UFC’s understanding through it all, which “led to bad situations.”
“I wasn’t mad (at being released),” Borg said. “I totally understood the decision. … A lot of it could’ve been in my control.”
Since his UFC exit, Borg said he’s been working as a DoorDash delivery person to supplement his income. What comes next in his career is uncertain. Taking a few years off to regroup sounds good to him, but it’s also not feasible if MMA still factors into his future.
“It does sound OK to do that, but I don’t know if I can do that. There’s no way I can provide for my family the way that I have through fighting. And I’m really good at it,” Borg said. “If I take a year off, I think that’s plenty. It’s more about getting my outside life taken care of so that way it’s not affecting me inside the octagon. That’s the biggest thing for myself. I’m not too sure where it’s going to go. I do know I’m not retiring. I just have to get some (expletive) together.”