Following an extensive amateur career, lightweight prospect James David Gray made the decision to turn pro this year, and so far things are working out well.
Gray is undefeated in his first two pro fights, a trend that’s continued over from his days as an amateur, to which he attributes his focus on the quality of his development rather than the quantity of fights he’s had.
“I only had 12 fights from 2005 to 2012 because I actually focused more on actually improving my technique and trying to becoming a better fighter and wasn’t worried about constantly competing,” Gray told MMAWeekly.com.
While he feels he was well-prepared to turn pro in 2013, it did take him a little bit to get fully adjusted to his new status.
“The fact that it was the culmination of all those years and it was my first pro bout, I went in a little nervous, a little tense and didn’t fight the way I wanted to, but I was able to get the win fairly easily,” said Gray.
“After that (first) fight I went back to the basics of keeping my mind clear, staying relaxed and not making it a big deal, and my next fight I felt real composed and implemented my game plan and fought at a pace I could have kept the whole fight.”
Having finished all of his opponents in the first round, Gray (2-0) impressed the XFC enough that he will be participating in their upcoming South American bantamweight tournament starting on Sept. 27 in Brazil against fellow up and comer Lucas Moraes (5-1).
“It was a dream come true just because I had three main goals when I got into MMA: go to Brazil, go to Japan, and win a world title,” said Gray. “So when I got the offer to leave the country and compete, I was ecstatic about and said absolutely.”
When it comes to facing Moraes, Gray intends to make his opponent as uncomfortable as possible to help gain an advantage in the fight and get the win.
“He’s aggressive, strong, pressures well, is very athletic, and well rounded,” said Gray of Moraes. “I think an area I can excel at is bullying him a bit.
“Being a little bit older and having been through the grind a little bit more, I feel like I’m going to put the pressure on him, keep the pace up and dictate the fight with my wrestling. Just keep him in an area he’s not comfortable at in the fight.”
While Gray is achieving his goals by fighting in the XFC’s tournament, he’s by no means satisfied just by showing up.
“I’m not going out there to just say that I made it to Brazil and it was good enough for me – I’m going out there to dominate the fight,” he said. “And if (Moraes) is as good as I expect he is and I believe he is, at the end of the day, I feel we’ll have an amazing fight and a lot of respect for each other.”