If anyone knows about fighting up a weight class, it’s Jessica Eye.
Eye fought up at bantamweight in seven-consecutive fights after signing to the UFC in August 2013. She won one bout in three-straight years of being in the division. After suffering four-consecutive losses, she returned to 125 pounds in January 2018.
Eye is now 4-1 in the UFC women’s flyweight division.
Instead of being the smaller fighter at bantamweight, Eye is facing former strawweight Cynthia Calvillo in the promotion’s June 13 event headliner. As Calvillo makes her UFC flyweight debut after seven-straight strawweight appearances inside the octagon, Eye recalls her time at 135 pounds.
“I was like her in other ways, I fought up at bantamweight for many years and I was never the bigger fighter. I could contend, but there was definitely a size difference,” Eye said.
“You wouldn’t buy running shoes two sizes too big, now would you? So I’m thinking this could not work to her advantage.”
Finding a place
After recovering from a a left elbow surgery, “Evil” remains the No. 1 contender in the women’s flyweight division. Eye is coming off a unanimous decision win against Viviane Araujo at UFC 245 in December 2019.
It came after suffering a devastating second-round head kick to Valentina Shevchenko in a title fight at UFC 238 in June 2019. Eye rattled off three-consecutive wins before earning a shot at the strap.
Calvillo is not as experienced as Eye at flyweight, but she did make her professional debut at 125 pounds. Calvillo also holds victories over Montana De La Rosa and Joanne Calderwood at strawweight. Both women currently fight at flyweight.
She beat Gillian Robertson in a 120 pound-catchweight bout as well, who is currently in the UFC flyweight division.
Regardless of Calvillo’s credentials as a flyweight, Eye is looking forward to the test.
“She’s an exciting fighter, I’m an exciting fighter. I think it is just a fun matchup for the fans. People should be excited about it,” Eye said. “We want to fight each other for no other reasons than we love fighting. I think that’s what makes it a really dope matchup.”
“I paid my dues”
Eye will hit the scale for the first time since missing weight by over five pounds against Aruajo. The 33-year-old made the final move and decided to stop cutting weight in order to save the fight.
Eye gave up $14,000 from her purse to Aruajo for missing her mark. She served the punishment and is putting the failed attempt in the past.
“There were just missed calculations I made last time,” Eye said. “I put my money where my mouth is and I just said, ‘Hey, if she’s [Araujo] willing to take the fight, I’m not going to cut and I’m just going to come to weigh-ins. I’m not going to kill myself so it can affect the fight even more so into tomorrow,’ …Not only did it cost me my own respect for myself, but it cost me some fans respect too. I paid my dues. All I can do is be better.”
The COVID-19 presents some new challenges in weight cutting for fighters. Eye already planned ahead and purchased a sauna, which is located at her home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Out of the five UFC weigh-ins held during the pandemic, only four fighters missed their mark.
“I wouldn’t have taken this opportunity if I wasn’t truly capable in every way, I need to believe in myself on some level and I truly believe in myself on all levels right now.”
The announcement of her first career UFC main event could not come at a much better time. Not only did she recently recover from surgery, but she was already training to compete at Submission Underground 15 on June 21.
In fact, she is still slated to compete against Amanda Loewen at SUG 15, a week after her main event bout with Calvillo.
“Getting ready for that [Submission Underground 15], I had already been grappling a lot, I already been doing stuff like that,” Eye said. “I was already in what I would call a camp.”
As the division waits for Shevchenko to recover from her leg injury, Eye is cashing in on the chance to string wins together. For Eye, they chance to beat Calvillo in the June 13 main event is an opportunity she cannot refuse.
On one of the biggest stages of her career and in a weight class where she remains near the top, everything is aligning for Eye.
“I don’t mind waiting. I was already planning on waiting. This just happened and to be honest, I don’t even just love the matchup, but I love the ability to fight in my first main event. Who knows if I’ll ever get this chance again,” Eye said. “We always have that physical athlete, the athlete that is a physical specimen and then you have an skilled athlete that learns through new skill sets. I feel like the athlete in me is truly ready to shine through.”