The UFC women’s flyweight title picture has been in flux seemingly since it was the division was introduced in 2017.
The 125-pound division was expected to crown it’s inaugural champion at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale when Sijara Eubanks and Nicco Montano squared off in the tournament finals. However, Eubanks was eventually pulled from the title fight after struggles with her weight cut. Montaño later went on to win the championship with a decision over Eubanks’ replacement, Roxanne Modafferi.
Then, after months of inactivity due to health concerns, Montano was finally slated to defend her belt against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 228 in September. But on the week of the fight, the champion was removed from the bout and stripped of her title after complications with her own weight cut. Shevchenko was then immediately booked to face former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the now vacant title in the main event of UFC 231 in December.
But with UFC 230 still in need of a main event, UFC officials decided to pull Shevchenko from UFC 231 and rebook her opposite Eubanks on the November card inside Madison Square Garden.
Appearing on The MMA Hour, Eubanks walked through the process of securing what was supposed to be her first UFC title shot.
“It came out the blue,” revealed Eubanks. “[Manager] Ali [Abdelaziz] called me up and said ‘how much do you weigh?’ I said ‘man my weight is good.’ And then he said ‘you’re fighting for the the title Nov. 3.’ I was ecstatic. I was through the roof. I had a feeling when Nicco got stripped that Valentina was going to want to turn around and fight soon. So after Nicco got stripped I kind of had it in the back of my head that I think something is going to happen. I was like ‘let me stay in shape and let me just train.’ I had a fight signed already so it was easy to stay motivated. Then they had signed Valentina and Joanna. I was still kind of like ‘something isn’t quite settle here.’ Then Ali calls me out the blue one weekend and says ‘five weeks you’re fighting for the title at Madison Square Garden.’ I was jumping around super excited. Biggest moment of my life. I didn’t even ask if it was Valentina. I just said ‘let’s do it.’
“So I signed a bout agreement. It happened pretty quickly. I first I got the call and then I signed the bout agreement within two days. So not quite two days later, but I believe within 24ish hours of when I go the call.”
But a little more than one week later, as has become custom with the UFC’s newest division, promotion officials scrapped Eubanks’ title shot and rebooked Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk for UFC 231.
Even worse, a heartbroken Eubanks revealed the UFC never called her about the change. Instead, she found out from a family member flying in for her fight.
“I remember I signed a bout [agreement] on a Monday and we had just under five weeks left [until UFC 230],” said Eubanks. “Then I found out on a Tuesday - I remember my cousin was flying up from Florida because he comes to all of my fights. He was like ‘bro your fight is cancelled’ and I’m like ‘I would know if my own f*cking fight was cancelled’ and he was like ‘no I think your f*cking fight is cancelled.’ Then I go onto Twitter and my f*cking fight is cancelled.
“So for eight days I was preparing to fight for a UFC flyweight title.”
With her dreams of of UFC gold hampered, a rightfully livid Eubanks immediately tracked down UFC president Dana White.
“I hit up Ali and Ali didn’t answer at first,” said Eubanks. “So my heart dropped. I figured Ali kind of found out the same way I did. So when he didn’t pick up I knew it was bad news. Then I started blowing him up and he picked up said ‘I’m sorry.’ I was like ‘Let me speak to Dana White. I want to speak with Dana. Ali put Dana White on the phone.’ So I ended up speaking with Dana. Well, more like yelling at Dana. I have a pattern of yelling at Dana I guess.
“So I was just screaming at Dana. I let him know ‘not only are you taking this away from me but you’re taking this away in a f*cked up kind of way. I’m going to tell you and I’m going tell everybody that you all f*cked up. You passed up on what was going to be the biggest upset in women’s MMA history.’ I was going to put Valentina on her ass. I was going to show up and show out at Madison Square Garden. I was going to get my f*cking belt and I was going to shut everyone the f*ck up and have a blast. I was like ‘you all passed up on something f*cking major. You dropped the f*cking ball major. That’s your f*cking fault and you’ve got to fix it.’”
As for how her boss handled her tirade over the phone, Eubanks laughed and revealed White actually loved the emotion on display.
“He thought it was great,” said Eubanks. “I was in a parking lot pacing and screaming with veins coming out of my forehead. At the end of it, he tried to say a few things but I kept barking. So at the end of it, he laughed and said ‘I love it and I love you. Let me see what I can do.’ From the little I’ve interacted with him and from what I now about him, I knew he’d like what I said and he was happy with the way I reacted. I think if I had just rolled over and taken it, I would have gotten f*cked over pretty bad. So I let him know I’m not that type. I’m not gong to take it like that…I think he liked what I said and he did right by me.”
So with a title shot no longer on the table, Eubanks agreed to remain on UFC 230 and face Modafferi on the preliminary card in what is expected to be a title eliminator match.
But as been proven, even with a signed bout agreement, nothing is guaranteed in the UFC. This is perhaps none more prevalent than in the women’s flyweight division. But for Eubanks, as long as she does her job at UFC 230, the UFC will have no excuses for not granting her a title opportunity.
“When I beat Roxanne, what other case do you have to not to give me a title shot now?” asked Eubanks. “What else are you going to tell me? I made the weight twice, I beat Lauren [Murphy], who was the top ranked fighter in TUF, I ran through the rest of the division, I beat Roxanne in the TUF tournament, who was number one at the time, and I beat her again. Like come on. What else do you want me to do?”