Jessica Eye didn't take the typical route most female fighters have used to get into cagefighting.
Instead of rushing into the professional circuit to start picking up a paycheck, she took her time. She trained extensively before even taking an amateur fight and then took a plethora of amateur bouts before even considering a transition to the pros.
After finally feeling she was ready, she hit the ground running with her professional career and has had considerable success already.
Training out of Strongstyle MMA in the Cleveland area, Eye has built up a tremendous fanbase along the way as she's started off with a 9-1 record.
This Friday night, she'll be facing the sturdiest test of her career as she squares off against Bellator women's 115 pound champion Zoila Gurgel in a televised flyweight fight on the Bellator 83 main card in Atlantic City, the first time she's ever been given some serious national exposure.
"Evil" Eye spoke with MMAmania.com about her opportunity to take it to the next level, her differences in opinion with the brazen champion and she she needs to do to earn a victory in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Where would you rate the importance of this fight compared to several other female fights that have happened this year? Would you rank it top five, top 10?
Jessica Eye: Yeah, I definitely think it's one of the top 10 female fights. There's been a lot of big female fighters fighting for Invicta, Bellator, NAAFS and Strikeforce so I think me and Zoila rank up there. Zoila is one of the top ranked females and I think it's starting to get up there and people are starting to recognize us more. I would put me and Zoila as number two.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you view this as your breakout opportunity because this is the biggest name you've had an opportunity to fight and it's also that first big televised appearance?
Jessica Eye: I wouldn't call this my breakout opportunity because to be honest, I thought my breakout opportunity was when I fought Aisling Daly. That was when I initially signed my contract with Bellator. People were thinking, "She just signed with this big organization, she's been around for years through the amateur circuit and she's a new pro." I felt that was my breakout fight because that was my first time fighting for a pro title against an awesome girl. That was my moment but for me, this is my moment to prove to myself that I deserve to be where I'm at.
Zoila is a champ and I'm excited for that. I think she's great and I give her tons of respect. I think she's done a great job in her career thus far. We may have a difference in opinion but when it all boils down to it, it's a fight and I don't put any more pressure on myself like I did with Aisling so I learned my lesson with that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about that because that was the first time I ever got to talk to you was before that Aisling Daly fight. Can you compare the pressure you put on yourself for that fight compared to this one?
Jessica Eye: I put so much pressure on my fight against Aisling Daly that it was insane. I put too much pressure on myself and that caused me not to trust what I'd do in there. That fight wasn't me. I don't even know who was in there. I remember there were moments I didn't trust my instincts, I didn't stick to the gameplan and I Bjorn Rebney was there, Sam Caplan was there and there were so many people there that it was so new to me.
Also, Aisling came in as this Irish women's superstar and I'm 100 percent Irish in case you didn't know that and I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself that I almost buckled in there. My thought process stopped me from making good reactions. I looked at my corner a few times not knowing what to do despite the fact that I did know what to do. I just couldn't get it out from my head and communicate it to my muscles and my arms and actually do it. I feel like that was my breakout fight. I take my loss and I'm proud of it. It made me completely different and I'm glad I lost to Aisling because she's a great fighter and I know that she deserved it at the time and it me who I am today in advance of this fight against Zoila.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned that you had differences of opinion with Zoila heading into this fight. Can you elaborate?
Jessica Eye: She's, how do I say it, to me, she's a grudge-holder. She still has this hang-up about some conversation, a little bit of banter that we had back when I actually grappled one of her teammates. She took me completely the wrong way which is what she usually does with most people. If anybody doesn't say exactly what she wants to hear, she turns it into something negative.
We bantered back and forth over a grappling tournament. She said it happened on Facebook but it happened on Twitter and someone retweeted something about me in an argument with one of her teammates McKenzie. It wasn't an argument where it was heated, but someone retweeted what she said about missing excitement in the tournament, talking about me and McKenzie's small exchange of words. So I just tweeted back to her and said, "Hey, I'd love to give you some excitement one day," and that was it. Her and her husband just attacked me and all of my teammates online, calling me all kinds of names, telling me I was ugly, that I didn't deserve to be in the sport, that I was a poor sport which I'd never gotten.
She was referencing the Aisling Daly fight where I walked out of the cage, but if anybody saw that fight, they saw me shake Aisling's hand and tell her "great job Aisling" and again, I was going for a moment. It was the first time I'd ever lost in my MMA career and for her not to respect that and remember what it feels like in front of such a big crowd, it's actually bad karma for herself. It might happen to her where she has to stand there in front of thousands of people that she cares about and have to take that moment like a woman.