CLEVELAND -- Jessica Eye spent 10 months preparing for her return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship after suffering a fourth consecutive loss via decision, the latest one in front of the hometown Cleveland fans on the undercard of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena last September, and the wait grew a little longer this weekend.
Eye was expected to make her return on the undercard of The Ultimate Fighter Finale Friday, but UFC newcomer Aspen Ladd pulled out of the bout just hours ahead of the scheduled contest because she fell ill on the morning of fight day.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Eye said in a press conference after the bout was cancelled. “I didn’t feel it coming. I felt like, for once, things were really going in my direction, and I didn’t expect this. I always put my phone away when I get into the back, and Amber came to the back and she goes, ‘Jessica, Sean Shelby’s on the phone.’
“My coaches look at me and they’re like, “Sean Shelby doesn’t call anybody before the fight unless it’s something bad.’ We got on the phone and he told me that Aspen had gotten sick, and I just felt a wave of emotion.”
Given one last chance to prove herself to the UFC brass before a decision is made on her future with the company, Eye was anxious to get back into The Octagon and show off her improved skills, both physically and mentally.
“I know more than you guys know that I’m on the hot seat,” Eye said. “We know that this sport is about if you’re not on top, you’re on the bottom and you’re out. They find someone else to swim better than you. I know more than anybody where my career is at right now, and I wanted to prove to myself more than anything.”
Bethe Correia broke a two-fight losing skid with the decision over Eye in a women’s bantamweight contest at UFC 203, and that decision sent the Cleveland native to a fifth loss in her last six bouts.
Tentative in each of her last three bouts, Eye came out and controlled the pace in the first round of the fight. She landed several punches early and maintained control of the center of The Octagon for more than four minutes.
It was only late in the first round when Correia got the second of two tie-ups after a flurry from Eye, that she had her opponent facing the back of the cage.
And Correia’s aggressiveness carried her throughout the rest of the bout.
“I left no stone unturned,” Eye said. “I came in making weight. I had such a positive camp, and it sucks. What else can I say? It really hurts, and I feel like something bigger and better is going to happen. I asked Sean if I could have my next fight at 125, and they told me, ‘Yes,’ so it’s an overwhelming amount of emotion.
“Everything happens for a reason, so maybe that’s why this happened the way that it did, for me to go through these emotions again, keep my weight low and be able to go through this whole week again to prove to myself that I am supposed to be here and I am the professional that I am.”
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