LONDON: Stevie Ray was four weeks out from the biggest fight of his career when he received a phone call which made his heart sink. The 33-year-old had just finished a training session in preparation for his Professional Fighters League (PFL) lightweight world title fight against Olivier Aubin-Mercier, in late November, when he was told his seven-year-old daughter, Myla, required brain surgery. “I started sobbing, just crying on the mat,” Ray tells BBC Sport. “James, my coach, came up to me straight away to ask me what was wrong, gave me a hug and told me to go home. It was really, really tough.” In 2020 Myla was diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy and was prescribed medication to help with her seizures. Ray says before her diagnosis, Myla was affected by more than 700 seizures over a two-month period, but the medicine allowed her to return to a normal life. In October 2022 however, doctors discovered Myla suffers from Cortical Dysplasia type two which is an abnormality in the frontal lobe of the brain, and in conjunction with her becoming medicine-intolerant – something which Ray says affects only 20% of epilepsy patients – she would need brain surgery. Only those close to Ray knew what he was going through in the run-up to the fight against Aubin-Mercier. Ray, who is from Fife in Scotland, lost via a second-round knockout. If he had won, he would have secured the title and a $1m [£800,950] prize but in defeat, took home only about a tenth of that sum. “There was a lot of pressure. If I won a lot of the money was going to go on surgery and care for Myla. That was the plan. So that was the most devastating part [about losing],” said Ray. “If you watch the video [of the fight] you can hear my wife screaming ‘do it for Myla’. “To be honest it did affect my preparations but I didn’t want to tell anybody until after the fight. I didn’t want to make excuses. I got beat fair and square.” ‘The reaction has been overwhelming and surreal’: Following Myla’s diagnosis in October, Ray and his wife Natalie were told by the NHS the earliest they could get Myla in for surgery was December 2023. This news was frightening because doctors had told them she is a high-risk patient whose seizures leave her vulnerable to a cot death at any time. “There was no rush [from doctors] in terms of trying to fix Myla. We waited four or five months even for her to be put on the waiting list and we were getting frustrated seeing her health deteriorating,” said Ray. “The epilepsy nurse is great at what she does but she’s the only one in Fife. Maybe it’s not their (the NHS) fault but we were scared, especially when Myla is not well and has a rubbish quality of life.” Ray and his family decided to go private and began a fundraising page, setting a target of £100,000. Within 24 hours it had gone viral and surpassed that total. “I woke up the first night after this happened at three in the morning and I remember thinking ‘have I been dreaming?'” said Ray. “Some famous people had donated. UFC President Dana White, PFL chief Peter Murray, a lot of famous fighters as well as a lot of strangers that don’t even know me, my wife or Myla. It is just completely overwhelming and surreal.” Ray says shortly after the fundraising page went viral, the NHS contacted him to say they could bring Myla’s surgery forward to May. Ray has opted to go with the NHS and has offered everyone who donated their money back. Ray begins his 2023 PFL season against Brazil’s Natan Schulte in Las Vegas on Friday. It will be the 37th fight of a 13-year career which has yielded 25 wins across multiple promotions, including UK-based organisation Cage Warriors, where he won the lightweight title, and the UFC. Ray says while he finds it difficult being away from Myla, the money he earns from fighting will help to provide a better life for her and his family.