Kris McCray (6-1) was just 15 years old when his daughter, Octavia, was born, and the trials and tribulations associated with being a young father is something he looks back on with pride; pride, that in spite of the chips being stacked up against him, he still made his dream of becoming a UFC fighter a reality, while simultaneously maintaining his integrity as a father.
“In the beginning it was tough because I couldn’t work,” says McCray, a runner up on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Liddell vs Team Ortiz. “In school, at PTA meetings, the other parents would look down on me, asking how old I was and treating me like some flunky from the ghetto,” he said.
McCray worked jobs ranging from coaching high school wrestling to serving six years in the Army reserves, making it hard for the young father to keep his eye on the prize.
“Financially, supporting Octavia was tough. We talked and I told her I wanted to pursue fighting, and that I would not be able to be a father in that traditional sense – that I had to put everything into this. She was cool and as long as I called her once in a while she understood. As I was more and more successful and the money was coming in I was able to support her more, and now she’s 15 and proud of her Dad,” says McCray.
In fact, Kris says after UFC 122, where the former middleweight be making his welterweight debut against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Carlos Eduardo Rocha (8-0), he plans to visit his daughter’s high school during career week.
“It was cool for her when I was on the show, because her classmates and her teachers saw me on television, and that means a lot when you’re at her age,” he says.
After TUF, McCray had a lot of options when it came to training for UFC 122, and he thought about heading to San Jose, CA to train at AKA, where Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, and Jon Fitch are staples under trainer Javier Mendez, but then fate stepped in.
“One of my sponsors, Tony Jimenez of Microtech, called Frankie Edgar and asked if I could train with him since it was closer to my home in Virginia, and next thing I know I’m staying here on the Jersey Shore,” he said. McCray’s made himself at home at Edgar’s father-in-law Jerry’s house, where he says he has a great place to stay, “clean” food and a strict training schedule.
“Jerry’s been an angel sent from God,” says McCray. “All I have to do while I’m here is train. I have everything I need. He makes sure I get to training and working out with the champ has been awesome,” he says.
McCray is getting a first-hand look at what it takes to get to the top of the food chain, training alongside Edgar with fighters like Renzo Gracie, Ricardo Almeida, Eddie Alvarez, Rolles and Gregor Gracie and Rafael “Sapo” Natal.
“Frankie’s got a motor in him,” says McCray. “I am getting great work in. He’s got great partners and it’s pretty clear watching them and training with them why Frankie’s the champ. Ricardo (Almeida) is fine tuning my ground game, making sure I know how to counter all the techniques Rocha will throw at me, and then I get to wrestle full on with the Rutgers wrestling team.”
Edgar is an assistant wrestling coach for the Scarlet Knights.
McCray has also been up to New York City to train at Renzo Gracie’s academy, where he says there are plenty of big guys to roll with.
“I’m a little big rolling with Frankie, but the champ holds his own that’s for sure,” he says. “But between Rutgers and Renzo’s there are a lot of tough guys, and Ricardo’s a 170 pounder too so I’ve got everything I need,” says McCray.
And he will need all the rolling he can get. His opponent, Rocha, is 8-0 and has submitted all but one of his opponents up to this point. Rocha will be making his UFC debut and looking to make a statement with a win over the TUF alum.
“I think we match up pretty well,” says McCray. “It will be a classic ground and pound guy versus a jiu jitsu guy, so it’s going to be a pretty exciting fight. I want to put on a good show, and hopefully my fight will make it on television.”
McCray’s fight with Rocha will be the first bout on the undercard , but he says the low billing doesn’t bother him at all.
“I just can’t wait to get out there and do my thing, get the W and then have a German beer and become a fan and watch the rest of the more established guys go at it.”
For Kris, UFC 122 in Oberhausen, Germany is somewhat of a homecoming. As a military brat, he was born in Schweinfurt, Germany, where his father, a 1st Sergeant in the Army was stationed.
“I know the culture’s changed a lot since I’ve been there,” says McCray. “Last time I was there they used marks. Now they have euros. But I have a lot of friends still there, and I can’t wait to see them.”
McCray says growing up with a strict Army father was great preparation for his life inside The Octagon.
“I was 21 years old and my father was making me drop down and do pushups if I did something wrong,” he says. “My friends would be like ‘damn, you’re a grown man,’ and I was like, ‘yeah but he can still mess me up,” he said.
Kris McCray's Journey To The UFC
“I think we match up pretty well. It will be a classic ground and pound guy versus a jiu jitsu guy, so it’s going to be a pretty exciting fight. I want to put on a good show, and hopefully my fight will make it on television.”