Bethe Correia and Jessica Eye will meet inside the Octagon at UFC 203, but the Brazilian thinks the bout should have happened months ago. Correia vs. Eye was originally reported as planned for Feb. 21 in Pittsburgh, but never came to fruition. Correia eventually fought Raquel Pennington at UFC on FOX 19 in April, but insists that was the plan B.
"The UFC tried to book this fight three or four times, but it never happened," Correia told MMA Fighting. "I think she turned it down a few times. We were supposed to fight in February but she came up with this story about a movie that I’m still waiting for its premiere [laughs]. I don’t know why. So the UFC gave me another opponent. When they called me again offering the fight [at UFC 203], I said ‘yes’ right away, but it took a month for her to finally accept it. Maybe she doesn’t want to fight me. I don’t know why it took so long for her to say ‘yes.’"
Speaking with the media at the UFC 203 open workouts in Cleveland on Wednesday, Eye confirmed that she discussed doing a movie, the same one former UFC champions Miesha Tate and Holly Holm did alongside Cris Cyborg, but it never came to fruition. As of turning down a bout with Correia, Eye explains that she almost left her gym to take the fight in Pittsburgh.
"I wish Marcus (Marinelli) was here right now because I caused a s--tstorm," Eye said. "I begged for that fight in Pittsburgh. I sat in his office and begged. I said ‘Marcus, I’m on a losing streak. I’d go to Pittsburgh, it’s right around the corner. It’s in my hometown, all my people can drive, they can be there and support me,’ and Marcus said ‘no, it’s not the right time, Jessica. It’s not.’ And I’m like ‘no, I’m gonna be off for nine months and I’m gonna go broke.’
"I’m losing fights, I’m not making money when you’re losing fights. People don’t want your merchandise, they don’t wanna buy anything. And I begged him. Guys, I almost had to leave my gym because I wanted that fight over that girl. I almost had to leave my gym because my coach said, ‘You don’t trust me? You’ve made this far with me and you don’t trust my decision making?’"
UFC 203 takes place at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Sept. 10, and Eye, an Ohio native, has the task to overcome a three-fight losing streak in front of her countrymen.
"I have no doubt it’s going to be a great fight," Correia said. "The UFC always gives me great opponents, and I love to put on a show for the fans. Jessica Eye is coming off three losses, so it’s easy to find holes in her game. I’ve been through a lot recently, and I’m coming to win. I will win this fight. Life is like this -- unfortunately, she’s going to lose another fight."
Correia also enters the bout in a losing streak after defeats to Ronda Rousey and Pennington, but Eye definitely has her back against the wall. In six UFC bouts, Eye only had her arms raised after two bouts, but one of her victories was later overturned after she tested positive for marijuana.
"Jessica Eye’s history in the UFC is not good," Correia said. "She won a fight and then failed a drug test for illegal substances. She won another fight via doctor stoppage, but I’m pretty sure Leslie Smith would have won that fight if she was allowed to continue. You have one win in six UFC fights, so there’s a huge pressure over you now. I see that as an advantage for me."
"I have five fights and three wins in the UFC, but I still disagree with that last loss," she continued. "I think everyone who watched it knows that I won, but we’re there to be judge by the judges. But I don’t consider that a loss. The UFC knows I’m a great athlete and I can promote fights. It’s my moment to show the UFC that I can make some noise in this division again. I want the win. It’s my moment."
Correia, who suffered her first defeat with a 34-second knockout to Rousey in a title bout in Rio de Janeiro, is confident that she will become the bantamweight champion one day. And with Rousey out of action since 2015 and the belt changing hands constantly, "Pitbull" doesn’t expect a long road to the top.
"I believe it could be way faster, actually," Correia said. "When someone holds the belt for so long there are always rematches and things like that, but now I can beat Jessica Eye and fight a top 5 next to earn another title shot. Or maybe I can get a title shot right away. The way things are going, you never know.
"I’m not taking anything away from [UFC bantamweight champion] Amanda [Nunes] or any other fighter, but everybody is at the same level so the belt will keep changing hands. This is the toughest division in the UFC. And I think that shows how good I am. I’m still young in this sport, so imagine when I’m more prepared and have more training. I really am the future, and I will keep the belt with me for a long time when I get there."