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Jessica Eye on perseverance despite losses: If you believe outsiders, ‘maybe you’re in the wrong sport’

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Jessica Eye is 2-0 since returning to 125 pounds.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jessica Eye was sitting on a mountain of losses two years ago. Four straight. The kind of skid would earn many a UFC pink slip. And it brought a wave of negative comments on social media on a daily basis.

Rather than looking for a way out, though, Eye looked within. She had known for years that she was miscast as a bantamweight fighter. Eye said she begged UFC officials to open up a flyweight division — her natural weight class — but to no avail.

Until late last year.

The Ultimate Fighter 26 helped crown the first UFC women’s 125-pound champion in December, Nicco Montaño. A few weeks later, Eye fought in that division for the first time in five years and beat Kalindra Faria by split decision. It was Eye’s first victory since 2014.

Just like that, with her back up against the UFC wall, she gained some new promotional life. Eye followed up with a unanimous decision victory over Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Singapore earlier this year.

When she was interviewed afterward, Eye launched into a fiery monologue about where she believes she stands in this new division. The Ohio native told MMA Fighting that was just her making real what she has felt and talked about for a long time.

“Don’t give up and your self belief has to be bigger than what these people are trying to tell you what you’re worth,” Eye said. “So, if you believe other people, than maybe you’re in the wrong sport. if you’re gonna believe what everyone else has to say compared to what you truly know and feel in your heart and if you feel like you should give up after that much, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing this. This sport is really hard and it’s extremely taxing. If you can’t accept the losses, then you don’t deserve the wins.”

Eye (13-6, 1 NC) has gone from the potential MMA unemployment line to the driver’s seat in just five months. That is part of the reason why she exuded so much energy after beating Clark. She knows she’s here to stay at women’s flyweight.

“It’s definitely a plethora of things,” Eye said. “But one first and foremost is I’ve been waiting for the 125-pound division to happen, so now that it happened I feel like I’m gonna keep winning until I win that world title like I always believed. It’s cool to see the dreams turn into reality.”

Eye, 31, realizes that many fans — like the ones who were trashing her on social media — don’t remember that she was once a cornerstone of Bellator’s women’s divisions and unbeaten in eight straight fights. But she doesn’t begrudge them for that.

“They’ve never seen it,” Eye said. “So I can’t ask them to understand something they’ve never seen before. In all reality, they just don’t know that side, which is fine. It is what it is. I can’t show who I am with my words, so I’ll just do it with my fighting style.”

And that’s the confidence and self-belief that has carried her over the last four years, through all the bad times. Eye has no problem putting into words how she feels and she doesn’t care how they’ll be received. “Evil” said she wants to see how the potential flyweight title fight between Montaño and Valentina Shevchenko goes in September and then perhaps request a title shot.

“They can either let me have the top fights now and let me kick their ass and win the title or they can feed me whoever and I’ll kick their ass,” Eye said. “Maybe they can learn something. I’ve took a lot of losses and learned a lot about myself and that’s why I’m gonna get all these victories. I’m gonna get all these wins now.”

The first thing Eye wants to do is re-negotiate her UFC contract, she said. There’s only one fight left and she wants to get this hammered out before she steps into the Octagon again. Eye won’t pursue free agency, though. She has a one-track mind.

“Hell no,” Eye said. “I want this title. There’s no chance of me going anywhere. I want the UFC title. I didn’t come here to not get it.”

Once that is figured out, Eye hopes to fight again sometime before the end of the year. If that’s a title shot, great, she said. If not, Eye is cool with that, too. All that matters is she’s back from the brink. And she knows it.

“I have a chip on my shoulder, because I deserve it,” Eye said. “Because I survived probably the hardest time these years and most people would crack up. And I didn’t. And I didn’t.”