For welterweight prospect Tyler Ray, the fact that he’s been able to fight, let alone pick up victories in three of his four bouts, is impressive considering how he’d been fighting with a potentially dangerous medical issue.

Following a particularly nasty bout of pneumonia, Ray was diagnosed with a growth in his lung, causing him to operate at only a fraction of normal lung capacity for as long as he had been fighting.

“I ended up finding out I had an empyema, and drained 1.12 liters out of my pleural cavity,” Ray told MMAWeekly.com. “It was supposed to be a 30 minute surgery, but it ended up taking two hours and 45 minutes. The surgeon came out and told my dad and my wife that if I had waited 24-36 hours to have come in, I would have died. It was starting to shut down the other organs it was so bad.

“It was always in the back of my mind what if I never fight again, (but) my mind just switched into getting back into the cage again. That’s all I focused on. With God and my family and everyone around of me I got back in the cage. Every day since then it’s a blessing to me. Every time I get to step into the cage I never take it for granted.”

Now that Ray is fully recovered, he feels like able to perform at a level that he’d previously been not been capable of.

“Now that’s behind me, my cardio is not an issue to me anymore,” said Ray. “It’s not a fear in the back of my head in a fight. If it turns into a barn-burner, I can go. I can hit the gas pedal the whole time.

“My last fight (versus Seth Bess at Bellator 204 last August) was when I finally started to feel comfortable in the cage, and I think it showed. I’m looking to build off that this year.”

ON Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ray (3-1) will look to pick up his first win of 2019 when he faces Sam Garrett (3-1) in a main card 170-pound bout at LFA 64.

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“I just need to go out there and do what I feel I’m capable of,” Ray said. “I treat every single fighter the same, as if I’m fighting for a world title, and I never underestimate anybody.

“I think it’s a good match-up for me, because every fight is a good match-up for me, I’m dangerous in all aspects. I’m not going to worry about what he’s doing, I’m just going to go out and do what I’m capable of doing, if I do that I will come out with a win.”

Following the example of teammate and UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Ray feels like he can take his career to the next level in 2019, but will do so one step at a time.

“I do have a road map for myself, and goals I do want to obtain, and I am slowly chipping away at them,” said Ray. “I’m never looking two steps ahead; I’m always focused on right in front of me, so right now I’m focused on Sam. Once I get by him, we will figure out the next steps of my career.

“I do believe I will be in the UFC. I believe it will be sooner than later, but I’ve got to handle my business first on Friday night, and then we’ll sit down and figure out what comes next.”

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