In a perfect world, Joanne Calderwood would have already fought for the UFC flyweight title in 2020, but a decision to take a late-notice fight against Jennifer Maia backfired in the worst way possible.
The former Ultimate Fighter contender suffered a first-round submission loss to Maia, who then moved on to a title shot against reigning flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko this past November. Maia came up short in her bid to become champion but the sting felt by Calderwood didn’t go away after she rolled the dice by taking a fight before being granted a title shot and seeing the gamble fail to pay off.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Calderwood said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “For me, me and my team made that choice, let’s take this fight. It was short notice. In this sport you have to take risks and sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it. For us, we just see it as it wasn’t meant to be and we have to work even harder now to get back to the place that we were.”
Not one to lament regrets, Calderwood knew it was a calculated risk to take a fight against Maia after she had already been promised the next shot at Shevchenko. The problem was Shevchenko had already delayed their scheduled meeting after undergoing knee surgery and with Calderwood staring down a year-long absence from action, she felt it was better to stay active than just wait and hope that her title fight would happen.
“With the way the world was with the pandemic, there’s a lot of stress and pressure on me,” Calderwood explained. “I’m fighting one of the best girls in my division yet I’m training at my house. This doesn’t feel right. Then the other aspects, when is it happening? It’s happening but we don’t have a date kind of thing. Lots of different things that happened.
“I had it in my mind where I need to get out there and fight. I hate not being active. I also don’t like not getting paid. It’s like OK, you’re kind of rolling the dice but I’m grateful that the UFC was putting on fights, especially at this time of the year with the pandemic going on.”
While that fight didn’t go her way, Calderwood didn’t have to wait long for the UFC to come calling with an offer to face one-time title challenger Jessica Eye, which seemed like the perfect opportunity coming off a loss.
The fight not only gives Calderwood the opportunity to move right back up the flyweight ladder but she also gets the chance to settle a grudge that started last year over social media.
This past June, Eye failed to make weight for the second consecutive fight while coming in just over the 126-pound limit for a non-title bout against Cynthia Calvillo. Calderwood took to social media to point out what she believed was cheating on Eye’s part during her weigh-in where she allegedly held onto a curtain draped around her body after she was forced to take off her clothes to step on the scale.
That led to a heated exchange between the fighters on Twitter and perhaps resulted in this fight coming together.
“I just put something out on Twitter cause she was celebrating that she was only 0.2 [pounds] over the weight limit,” Calderwood said. “I had heard an hour or so before that she was four pounds over. I’m just like I’m all for the sport. When I found out about this, I’m like wow, this is an actual thing. I just wanted to put it out there. I hate people cheating and even trying to cheat. I don’t think it’s fair. I just put out there when are we going to ban the curtain trick?
“For me, if it was the night before or the day before a fight, I’m not on social media or if I am I’m posting stuff and that’s it. But she must have seen it and she just started attacking me. She attacked my voice. I was like wow. She said she was going to come to my gym. She knows where my gym is. I’m like OK but I would rather get paid for fighting you. I’m excited that we did get matched up. I don’t know if it was because of that. We were probably destined to fight anyways cause we were nearly fighting before.”
According to Calderwood, ever since the fight was announced, she’s been flooded with messages from people expressing enthusiasm over seeing Calderwood punch Eye repeatedly.
Considering her own feelings towards the Ohio native, Calderwood had a little extra motivation added to her pre-fight preparation.
“I’ve never fought anyone that I’ve really, really wanted to punch in the face,” Calderwood said. “I know a lot of people are messaging me I’m the lucky one that gets to do it. Cause I don’t think she has a lot of people that like her, unfortunately.
“I found out that I am lucky because a lot of people want to do it for themselves.”
On paper, Calderwood considers Eye the perfect opponent, especially if this fight stays standing for the majority of the time.
“I think I’ll be able to pick her apart,” Calderwood said. “She’ll be looking at my last fight and be like ‘for sure, I’m going to try to take her down.’ I think it’s gonna make a good fight cause I’ll be doing my best to not make that happen and keep it standing.”
If all goes well this weekend, Calderwood might put her name back in the hat for a potential title shot sometime over the next year but she’s not spending a lot of time thinking about Shevchenko or the flyweight championship just yet.
Instead, Calderwood prefers the opportunity to stay active and book as many fights as possible over the next 12 months rather than sitting and waiting any longer.
“I want to stay active,” Calderwood said. “I’m coming towards the end of my career and throughout my whole career I said I just want to fight, fight, fight. For me, a win would get me another fight and that’s all I want. I want to stay active.
“It’s hard because right now I feel I’m in my prime. My lifestyle is so good. I’m so happy. Everything, I feel strong. I feel like everything’s in place now. I wish I had all this crap together when I started. If I could find ways to not do it, I definitely did looking back. But now I do feel like I’m in my prime so I just mean coming to end, I want to start a family. But nothing any time soon. I have at least another year or two fighting. I think I can get another 10 fights in there.”