Prior to signing with the UFC in 2013, Jessica Eye was widely considered one of the best fighters in the world at 125 pounds.
Eye dominated the competition in the women’s flyweight division, reeling off seven straight wins in the division including an incredible standing head and arm choke submission win over former Bellator champion Zoila Frausto.
Unfortunately, Bellator decided to do away with women’s fighting shortly after that win and Eye was left without a home until the UFC came calling to ask her to join the women’s bantamweight division instead.
Eye wasn’t afraid of testing herself at 135 pounds and she ended up facing four former champions or title contenders during her run at bantamweight in the UFC while routinely giving up a lot of size to her opponents. She continued to add muscle to her body to compete with those bigger fighters, but it wasn’t until a grappling match last year when Eye finally realized how much size she was giving up by competing at bantamweight.
“When I grappled Miesha [Tate], I came in at 145 [pounds] and she came in at 157 and we didn’t have to have a weight it was just whatever we wanted and she was just so much bigger than me. I think I already knew it but I really knew then,” Eye said ahead of her next fight at UFC Fight Night in St. Louis.
“It’s all in hindsight now. I will only use that as experience but let’s face it and I don’t care what other people think but I know and the girls who fought me at 135 know I’m the toughest chick they faced and I’m proud of my performances even if some were losses. There were some close decisions with the very best in the business and I was fighting up a weight class.”
Despite adding muscle and size to her frame, Eye was still the smaller fighter in almost every single bout she had at 135 pounds and she always longed for the UFC to finally add the women’s flyweight division.
Finally in 2017, UFC president Dana White announced that the promotion would be adding the 125-pound women’s division with the first ever champion being crowned by way of “The Ultimate Fighter”. Soon after White made his announcement, Eye immediately celebrated the decision as she knew it was finally time to go home again.
“I feel like I am getting a new fresh start,” Eye said. “I’m very excited about this. It’s crazy because I thought I’d never be able to make 125 again and now I’m feeling the best I ever have and it’s because I really want this. I want to prove to myself, to others, to my team, I want to be like Stipe [Miocic], I want to be a champion and I want to win the title in the weight class that best suits me.”
Eye will get her first fight in the UFC at 125 pounds this Sunday night when she faces Kalindra Faria as the featured bout on the early preliminary card airing on UFC Fight Pass. As excited as Eye may be about her move back to the flyweight division, she’s not lost on the fact that she’s also entering the contest off four straight losses in the UFC.
Eye has never been one to make excuses for her defeats but she prefers to look at this matchup at flyweight as a chance to show the UFC what she can really do.
“I’m very excited to show that I’m much more than what I’ve shown,” Eye said. “Because now I’m going to be fighting in the weight class where I belong. I know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m capable of at 125. I don’t think others know and I like that. It will be a really big shocker for them.
“Let’s see what I do at 125. Let them see how great I am.”
Long term, Eye already has her sights set on becoming a UFC champion in the women’s flyweight division and bringing another title home to her native Ohio just like teammate and heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Eye isn’t calling anybody out or declaring that she’s the No. 1 fighter in the world at 125 pounds just yet. Instead, Eye will let her fight performance do the talking for her but make no mistake, she’s gunning for UFC gold sooner rather than later.
“I felt like I won a title in Bellator when I beat Zoila [Frausto] but they never gave it to me,” Eye said. “I’m missing that ring I deserve to have. I’m treating this like I left and came back.
“I’m here. I’m going to get that title and this is my time.”