Like any public figure, Ray Borg has dealt with his fair share of criticism in the past. But never has the 24-year-old been the target of a firestorm quite like last month, when an illness forced UFC doctors to pull him from the main event of UFC 215 just days out from fight night.
Within minutes of the announcement, hoards of disgruntled fight fans swarmed to Borg’s social media accounts to rub salt into the wound and blame Borg’s dropout on the fighter’s past weight-cutting issues.
The situation was a nightmare turn of events for Borg, who has repeatedly and vehemently denied accusations that his weight cut played a part in his withdrawal. And while Borg’s flyweight title challenge against Demetrious Johnson was ultimately rescheduled for Oct. 7 at UFC 216, “The Tazmexican Devil” admitted that the overwhelming reaction he received from dissatisfied fans online made an already hard experience that much more difficult.
“At first, it made me really upset,” Borg admitted Monday on The MMA Hour. “I’m one of those guys, I don’t know if you’ve seen Jay and Silent Bob — have you seen Jay and Silent Bob? You know at the end when they spend all their money and just go kick the sh*t out of everyone talking sh*t on the internet? That was my thought process for about a day. And then I realized that, you know, it’s the fight game.
“Honestly, I went on Jon Jones’ social media and saw the bashing that he’s getting. Henry Cejudo, I don’t know if you remember but Henry Cejudo broke his hand, or whatever, against Sergio Pettis, and people were saying, ‘Oh, it was a botched weight cut.’ I had to tell myself that fans are going to say what fans are going to say. They’re very uneducated. They don’t really know what’s going on. So, in all honesty, I have something to prove Oct. 7 much more than just beating Demetrious Johnson.”
Borg’s frustration showed itself on the night of UFC 215 when he unloaded his thoughts in a fiery Twitter back-and-forth with fans. Borg said he has since made a conscious decision to stay off social media in the lead-up to UFC 216, but the narrative that he was somehow scared of Johnson or was irresponsible with his UFC 215 preparation still bothers him when he hears it.
“Everyone knows here at Jackson’s in New Mexico how hard I work my ass off,” Borg said. “Why would I spend, day in and day out, just spending so much money on fight camp, working my body to the bone, training non-stop, not being able to see my family — why would I go through all of that just to show up to fight week and not want to perform? Why would I want to show up on fight week and not get paid for myself, my family, and my future children? Why would I do that?
“So, it was one of those things, like, ‘Sh*t, please. Please let this sickness pass. Please let me fight and give me medicine, something like that.’ It was one of those situations, because I would not go out there all the way to Canada — I had all my family fly out to Canada — just to pull out the day before.”
Borg added that the aftermath of UFC 215 ultimately only furthered his belief that he has “a lot to prove” against Johnson, who remains the only flyweight champion in UFC history and is set to break the record for most consecutive title defenses (11) with a win over Borg at UFC 216.
Borg was already an overwhelming underdog before the incident, listed as high as an eight-to-one underdog on some Las Vegas sportsbooks, and now a vocal portion of the fanbase has seemingly turned against him as well. But Borg knows that in the end, the only thing that matters is what happens on Oct. 7.
“I have something to prove to myself more than anybody else,” Borg said. “I could give a damn what anybody else thinks about me. I have to prove to myself that I can compete with Demetrious Johnson and beat Demetrious Johnson. And what I need to prove to myself is that I can take all this unfortunate luck that’s happened to me — that’s one thing that people don’t understand is, everything that’s happened to me goes way deeper than what people understand. People see it from the outside surface.
“You guys don’t see it from the internal surface, what really goes down. And it’s been a really, really rough ride. I had a great streak, everything was going good, and then life happened, really. Life took an unfortunate turn for me. I had some issues in life, some family drama, things like that, and along with my whole fight luck, it was just sh*t. So I have to go in there to prove to myself that I can take everything that everyone’s saying about me, everything that’s happened in the last year, put it the f*ck behind me and keep trucking forward. That’s all I care about.
“Because that’s the most important thing at the end of the day, having the ability to take everything that happened in the past, put it behind you and keep moving forward, and not dwell on it. Not let the fans make you feel like sh*t because this happened and this happened and this happened. Great. Look what happened to Kelvin Gastelum. Go Wikipedia Kelvin Gastelum. Go Wikipedia John Lineker. What did they do? They put it behind them and they kept moving forward. They had some weight cutting issues, they’ve had to pull out of fights. Ian McCall has had health issues and had to pull out of fights last minute. But it’s all about just keep trucking forward, and that’s what I have to prove to myself.”