Top-ranked flyweight Jessica “Evil” Eye has sustained a serious back injury and has been forced to withdraw from her fight against Munah “The Perfect Storm” Holland at Bellator 95 on April 4th in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Eye discussed details of the injury with MMARising.com this weekend.
Eye, who has fought through injuries including a broken foot in the past, was left unable to walk or train due to the severity of the back injury. She incurred damage to the sacral vertebrae in her lower back and will undergo shots and therapy in hopes of making her return to the Bellator cage this summer.
Eye (9-1-0) ascended to the top of the women’s flyweight division in December when she choked out Zoila “The Warrior Princess” Frausto Gurgel in just 58 seconds at Bellator 83. She had looked to post her seventh straight win in the bout with Holland (5-2-0), but will now be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time. Eye previously fought veteran Angela Magana to a three-round Unanimous Decision victory in August despite competing with a broken foot that had significantly limited her ability to train for the bout. This time, however, Eye knew that she would be unable to fight on.
“This [injury] happened on Sunday when I was doing Greco-Roman [wrestling],” Eye says. “It’s been back and forth for me this whole week. I’ve been depressed and I tried to push through it as much as possible. I’m a fighter and that’s what I do, so if I can’t fight, who am I? I’ve never not been able to fight through an injury, but this one really stopped me and that’s kind of hard for me.”
Eye’s back had been giving her trouble during training for nearly four weeks, but it was not until Sunday that the problem became much worse. When her back went out, she was unable to walk or stand up straight. She immediately began cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory shots into the muscles to try to alleviate the condition, which was diagnosed as a damaged S1 vertebrae and SI joint. Eye states that insufficient rest time and stretching may have played a part in the development of the injury.
“I’m literally going every day of the week to one of my three different doctors,” Eye notes. “I’ve got a sports massage therapist, a physical therapist and my main doctor. If I’m not seeing one, I’m seeing another one, and that’s how it was all throughout this week. For the next three weeks, it’s going to be physical therapy. I’m going to start swimming again and I’ll see if I can begin walking on the treadmill. I don’t anticipate that I’ll be back to full MMA training for at least a month.”
Eye is hoping to be able to make a return to action in the upcoming Bellator Summer Series. If she cannot get on a Bellator card, she hopes that the promotion will allow her to fight for the Ohio-based North American Allied Fight Series, where she began her career as an amateur in 2008. Eye is also focused on staying active in grappling tournaments if fight opportunities in MMA are limited.
“I’m a little scared about what’s going to happen because I just don’t know,” she says. “It’s kind of like going to work every single day and then not knowing when you’re going to get a paycheque. It’s very petrifying, especially when you’re like me and you’ve devoted all of your time and energy into being the best that you can be in this sport. And let’s face it, I’m not making six-figure paycheques.”
Prior to suffering the back injury, Eye had never before pulled out of a fight. Being reliable is a crucial character trait to Eye and she extended condolences to her opponent, Holland, who may now be left without a fight. Eye has been on the other side of the equation on multiple occasions and has endured fight cancellations and changes. However, she knew that it would not be fair to herself, her fans or to her opponent to come into the fight at a level that would be far shy of her best.
“For all I know, Munah could be having the most standout training camp and everything, and here I am struggling to get through it,” Eye says. “How fair is that to me and to my career for all of the hard work that I have put in? I don’t want to lose on a stupid mistake. I feel like that’s kind of what happened with me against [Aisling] Daly and I refuse to not take that into consideration. I deserve a fair and honest training camp just like any other female fighter.”
After a week of anxiety and depression over the injury, including briefly contemplating whether it was worth it to continue on in MMA, Eye says that she has begun to feel better about the situation and is optimistic about the future going forward. Positivity and inspiration to her fans have both been key factors in Eye’s rise to become one of the most popular female fighters in the sport. She has resumed interacting with her many supporters and will soon release a video documenting her injury recovery.
“We’ll see how these next few months play out,” Eye says. “I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so maybe there was a reason behind all of this. I will come back stronger.”
(Photo Credit: Bellator)