Eye Seeks Redemption, Validation at UFC 238

The Rootstown, OH, fighter took the long way to get a title shot

Cleveland, Ohio, should consider renaming itself “Fight Town”. In the last ten years or so, the city has produced champion boxers, professional wrestlers, and mixed martial artists (MMA). From Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the most recent champion, Stipe Miocic, recently lost to Daniel Cormier; however, Miocic is looking for a rematch very soon.

Another Clevelander area artist who was looking for her first shot at a title is Jessica “Evil” Eye. This fighter has been on a long road to redemption for her shot. She was once considered one of the up-and-coming flyweights in women’s division of the UFC. She started her professional career with a split decision victory over Sarah Kaufman in 2013. However, a positive test for marijuana stripped her of the decision, derailing her hopes in becoming a champion. Since this discretion, she still had a way to go to prove that she belonged. UFC fans may ask what a five-loss fighter is doing even getting a title shot, as Dana White has famously instituted a “three losses and you’re out” policy. UFC critics will also point out that the women’s flyweight division, much like the men’s, is not worth having around anymore. With UFC president Dana White forcing Nicco Montano to abdicate the title last year for not making weight, coupled with lackluster talent and Eye’s struggles, the division took a significant credibility hit. In December of last year, current flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title, Jedrzejczyk fighting outside her division of strawweight because there were no other legitimate candidates in the flyweight division. Saturday will be Eye’s long-awaited title shot. Eye is looking to prove her critics and to herself that she is deserving of it.

Eye knows she has everything to prove Saturday. She also has nothing to lose. Her past has given her a strong sense of resilience. A drug violation and a four-match losing streak ultimately pale in comparison to her survival as a youth. Raised by her hard-living father, Randy, her Rootstown upbringing was a theater of watching her father abuse drugs, invite bikers over constantly to hang out, and date strippers. From her own account on The Players’ Tribune entitled, “The Misfit”, her father was very controlling, even becoming physically and verbally abusive toward her. Following an incident with sneaking out of her house with a boy, her father throttled her, had part of a settlement from a car accident she was in years previously in cash, handed it to her, and essentially kicked her out of his house. She eventually got noticed by Team Strong Style MMA members while she was working as a cocktail waitress at an exotic club, and her destiny was fulfilled.

Eye might not be truly evil; however, she has been a bit precocious on UFC Twitter. She has been “poking the bear”, as she put it to MMA Junkie writers Steven Marrocco and Ken Hathaway, while trying to get into it with the current flyweight champ. Shevchenko posted videos of sparring in preparation for this fight, which Eye accused as being doctored. Confrontations on-line and in the locker room have not amounted to much since the Shevchenko will not bite on Eye’s attempts to get in her head.

Half-hearted pre-fight banter aside, Eye will definitely look to use Shevchenko’s game against her. Eye told reporters her versatility will aid her in combating Shevchenko’s grinding, Muay Thai style. Eye claims, while the champion has only been improving upon her strengths, Eye herself has improved her all-around MMA game, which is enough to capture the belt.

In relation to her whole life, this will not be the most difficult thing she has ever had to do.

UFC 238 will be held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, June 8th on pay-per-view television. The main card will begin at 10:00 p.m. Shevchenko versus Eye will be the co-main event with Henry Cejudo taking on Marlon Moraes.

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