(Photo via Keith Mills/Sherdog)
By Elias Cepeda
In case you hadn’t noticed, Jessica Eye has been a Bellator fighter for the past couple years. The flyweight/bantamweight had been signed to the organization since 2011 but, like other women on the roster, she had trouble getting fights with regularity.
Between Bellator appearances, Eye stayed busy by taking fights for the Ohio-based NAAFS league. But Eye knew that her time in Bellator was drawing to a close even before the promotion recently informed her that they were about to release her and all of their roster’s female fighters.
“I’m a smart woman so I knew something was up,” she chuckles.
“It was getting to the point where, if they didn’t get me my last fight in June, they would have soon been in breach of contract.”
Eye nonetheless managed to take on and beat marquee names such as Zoila Frausta Gurgel and Carina Damm (who botched a drug test moments before their fight), compiling a 10-1 record and seven-fight win streak since her pro debut in June 2010. At worst, Eye’s release from Bellator was bittersweet.
The MMA world was not at all surprised when the UFC quickly signed her to their bantamweight division and booked her against Sarah Kaufman, October 19th at UFC 166. The Cleveland fighter, however, never took the signing for granted.
“I’m 27 years old and that’s old enough to have learned that you shouldn’t assume anything,” Eye explains. “But I did have confidence that I had done enough in MMA that people had learned about me and that I would get picked up by the UFC.”
When she did, the Strong Style Fight Team member recognized what a monumental accomplishment joining the UFC was, especially considering that women have only been in the organization for six months. “It feels great,” she says.
“That’s why I signed my contract in the [Cleveland] Browns stadium. I wanted to look up at all those seats and think about how far MMA has come and how far it could still go. I’m ready for this.”
“This,” of course, includes all the attention women fighters are finally getting because of their inclusion in the UFC, but Eye understands that she didn’t sign up for a parade at UFC 166 – she’ll have to fight another highly trained lethal weapon. “I would be an idiot if I didn’t think that Sarah Kaufman is a very hard fight,” Eye says.
“She’s a former champion, a veteran and has fought a lot of great other fighters.”
Eye is, of course, confident that she will be able to best Kaufman and earn her first UFC win. That supreme confidence extends to fighting bigger women in general.
Because the UFC currently only has one women’s weight division, fighters like Eye — who has competed several times at flyweight in the past — have to necessarily choose the higher division and larger opponents in order to compete in the organization. “Evil Eye” is undaunted.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there were about five fights where I fought at 131 pounds or 132 pounds, and it was getting harder to make that weight or 125 as I get older. With 135, I can put on more muscle and feel strong and not have to worry about cutting weight,” she insists.
Practical considerations aside, however, one factor reigns supreme in Eye’s mind. “I’m not scared of anything,” she says. “I’m not scared of anyone. I don’t care. I’ll fight anybody.”