Even if the featherweight tournament final between Rad
Martinez and Shahbulat
Shamhalaev had gone off without issue, it would’ve been hard to
trump the performance put on by Jessica "Evil"
Eye against Zoila
Frausto Gurgel in the opener of the televised card for
Bellator 83 in Atlantic City, N.J.
After the main event was a very late scratch, the focus only
intensified upon the standing arm-triangle submission that put
Gurgel to sleep 58 seconds after the opening bell rang. Smiling
from ear to ear during the post-fight press conference, Eye was
just as quick to credit the
Bellator champ as well.
“I couldn’t have done that without Zoila,” Eye told Sherdog.com.
“I’m not too proud of a woman to say I wouldn’t have had this
opportunity if she hadn’t done something right. I do feel like I
made a mark, and I did it against the right kind of person.”
That mark further cements a career that has skyrocketed over the
last two years and has picked up some very famous friends along the
way. In attendance for Eye’s performance on Friday was Cleveland
Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs. The wideout is someone Eye calls
a good friend and has given the Cleveland native more than just
“I don’t even know what’s going to happen when I go home to
Cleveland. The Cleveland support because of Josh is insane. I want
to be ‘The Queen.’ LeBron left as ‘The King.’ I’ll stand in as ‘The
Queen.’ I’ll give it everything it needs.”
“The Queen” now finds herself in quite the envious position. During
a week where Ronda
Rousey was slated as the main event for UFC 157, Eye is now a
figurehead in her own right. Don’t expect much to change from one
of the Team Strong Style pioneers though.
“No not at all,” Eye proclaimed. “We don’t change anything. Even
when we lost we didn’t necessarily change things. We just
manipulated them. You don’t change things because changing things
adds too many variables. I get back into the gym as normal on
Eye acknowledged that what happens next is very much in the hands
of Bellator, more specifically its CEO, Bjorn Rebney. With the
tournament format long serving as a staple for Bellator, how do you
build on the momentum of a performance like this?
“I don’t know,” Rebney stated to Sherdog. “That’s the key question.
I mean at 125 right now, Zoila just got caught. I don’t think
anybody is going to look at that and go, ‘I don’t want to see Zoila
fight at 125 again.’ She (pointing to Jessica Eye)
is a star. We’ve got a few other ladies to round out 125. I want to
do it, I just don’t know if it’s going to be on the first season of
Spike. But I think we can do it at 125.”
Rebney acknowledged that the likely focus of any future tournament
would be at 125 despite Gurgel serving as the 115-pound champ. But
the issues facing Rebney are the same ones his counterpart in the
UFC long mentioned when asked about moving forward.
“We’ve got to develop a little bit more depth. We’ve got four or
five in the mix right now --we’ve just got to find the other
three,” he said. “When you see a performance like the one we saw
tonight it speaks to how good some of the ladies are in the game.
The question is depth. There are a series of good fighters out
there; it’s just not all at the same weight class.”
A second women’s tournament in Bellator has been discussed
seemingly since the day the first one ended. With depth being the
issue in moving forward does the next Bellator women’s tournament
have to be in its normal format?
“But that’s the other alternative and it’s not a bad alternative at
all,” Rebney argued. “It’s still in the back of my head. Could we
just go with four? Could you just take four ladies and do the
tournament? Then it’s a little bit less of a pure tournament per
se. It’s one fight and then you’re in the final, but that may be
what it takes. One way or another I want to do it.”
With questions of tournament format and depth at 125 floating
around in Rebney’s mind, there’s still yet an issue of space. Six
world title fights are already scheduled for the first season of
Bellator on Spike. But on a night where the ladies saved the show,
Rebney recognized the circular logic behind the discussion
involving women fighting in Bellator.
“That fight could’ve easily been a main event. If you’ve got the
depth you’ll be able to have more great fights,” he said. “More
depth can give you more fights like that to build on a show. The
problem is it’s one of those chicken and the egg things. To get
more women committed to it you have to do more of the fights. To do
more of the fights you have to have the women to do it.”