CLEVELAND -- Four months ago, Cleveland-based mixed martial artist Jessica Eye watched as her teammate and long-time friend, Stipe Miocic, knocked out Fabricio Werdum to win the UFC heavyweight championship of the world.
Despite being on a three-fight losing streak heading into tonight’s bout against former No. 1 contender Bethe Correia at UFC 203 in Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night, Eye is hoping to right the course of her MMA career and get on track to a title shot of her own.
“When you go to the UFC, you don’t get to work out with all your teammates, go through the camp,” Eye said. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to go through a camp with the champ, and I’m so fortunate. He’s such a hero to me and I’m so excited to be one day in his shoes.”
For the last 10 years, Eye and Miocic have trained at the same gym, Strong Style, in Independence, but rarely were they in training camp for a fight at the same time. On different schedules for much of their UFC careers, this is the first time the two have shared a card since entering the top MMA organization in the world.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Eye said. “Me and Stipe have fought on the amateur circuit and the pro circuit, so I saw him win an amateur title. I saw him win a pro title. It’s amazing that finally, we fought all those years together and now, we’re on the same card.
“It’s actually very exciting to be able to go through a camp together and be able to strive off each other. He’s finishing his private workout and I’m stepping into mine. I’m getting to see his and I’m feeding off his energy.”
Miocic won the UFC championship after delivering a right hand to Fabricio Werdum’s jaw in the first round of the main-event bout of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, back in May. The former champion was chasing Miocic around the outer rim of The Octagon, and left his chin exposed. Despite backing away from Werdum’s pursuit, Miocic threw a powerful right hand that floored the former titlist.
Miocic added three shots to the downed Werdum before referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in-between the fighters to end the bout at 2:14 of the first round.
And although Miocic is at the top of the heap in the heavyweight division heading into his title bout with Alistair Overeem tonight, Eye has seen the same person she has trained alongside for the past decade.
“I shed so many tears for him because I’m so proud of him,” Eye said. “I’ve seen him go all the way, and he’s still doing everything he loves. He’s still giving back. He’s still a firefighter and is still giving back in so many ways. I couldn’t imagine a better champion in the world.
“To be where he is right now and to watch him do the things that he’s done, it’s inspiring. It’s inspired our team. It’s inspired the young pros that we have on the team, the young amateurs and just these young people interested in mixed martial arts. Maybe they just like it as a hobby, or maybe one day, they’re going to be the next big champion.”
This is Part Five of our series leading up to Eye’s bantamweight bout with Bethe Correia at UFC 203 tonight.