Abusive childhood fuels Jessica Eye's success
"She's a fighter, man. She's one of those fighters like I talk about, who is pure fighter. When it's go time, she's as tough as there is, and she loves it."
Jessica Eye recently wrote a piece for The Player's Tribune about her violent, abusive father. Randy Eye passed in 2016 from brain cancer, and leaves a complex legacy.
Her father was a hitter. For the harrowing details, read her entire article here.
When she was 18 he found out she was dating, punched out all the windows in her car, and handed her the settlement money from a car accident she was in, about $42,000 in total, and said, “I tell bitches like you to f*** off.”
And that was it. I graduated and then got an apartment by the University of Akron, where I studied for a while. Rent chewed up my settlement money pretty quickly, so I quit my job at Arby’s and ended up at a local strip club called Scarlett’s, working as a cocktail waitress.
It was there that I met the guys from Strong Style gym and began my journey into the world of Mixed Martial Arts. I’ll be honest, it all happened super quick. I think one night I was serving the boys drinks and one of them went, “Hey, you look like a pretty in-shape chick. Do you know what fighting is?”
And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve kind of heard about it before.”
That was it.
The first time I walked into Strong Style, my brain went, Holy s***, this is what you’re meant to be doing, Jess. Maybe it was the house I grew up in, maybe it was my love of sports, but there was just something about being in this space, with all of these guys trying to work, that made me feel like I was little Jessie Joe again, hanging out with her brothers.
I immediately quit my job at Scarlett's, picked up a part-time gig at Dick’s Sporting Goods to help cover the rent, and threw myself into fighting.
It took seven months of training before my first fight and, in that time, the guys at Strong Style helped me forge a family and a lifestyle that, growing up, I hadn’t thought was possible for someone like me. The guy who owns the place, Marcus Marinelli, took me under his wing, and I became a person who was more than her crappy upbringing.
No one was going, “That’s Jessica, the girl who came from f***ed up beginnings. Her dad was an abusive drug addict.”
At Strong Style, it was just, “That’s Jessica. She’s here to be the most kick-ass girl she can be.”
And I loved that. People there trusted me. They wanted me to do well, not out of a place of pity, but because they knew I was putting in the hours. It meant so much to me, to be seen that way.
I became a person who was more than her crappy upbringing.
Jessica 'Evil' Eye, now 32, challenges flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main event of UFC 238 on Saturday. Win or lose, she's not a survivor, she's a damn hero.