Sijara Eubanks: Special Kind of Person
Sijara Eubanks stepped into ‘TUF26: A New World Champion’ as the twelfth ranked female in the competition, with little to no hype around her name. Fast forward to the finale and ‘Sarj’ had decimated her first two opponents before defeating the number 1 seed in the semi-finals and sealing her position as a headliner in Las Vegas.
This tale however didn’t have the happy ending that she would have liked; much like in the house, Eubanks had struggled with her weight cut again, but on this occasion she fallen ill and had to withdraw from the fight, leaving her to be replaced in the main event. ‘It did get pretty serious’ she conceded, explaining ‘I probably cut so much weight in the house that I had already started to do some damage to my kidneys then. What I didn’t really talk about much leading up to the fight in December was that I really rebounded from those back to back cuts pretty bad and I had got up to about 160lbs since leaving the house – a lot of girls rebounded, we had pretty much been starving ourselves, training and being in this really unique scenario, so the whole camp I was on the heavy side and just struggling to get the weight off’.
Thankfully, there seems to be no permanent damage and while recalling the day’s events she said ‘I didn’t stay overnight in the hospital, but I did spend a couple of hours there, they wanted to keep me overnight for observation but I’m a stubborn fighter so I checked myself out after I’d got a couple of IV bags in me. After some follow up, they’ve confirmed that there’s no permanent damage to my kidneys, so I took a week or two off to just mentally and physically recover from everything and then I got right back in the gym’.
Defeated Semi-Finalist Roxanne Modafferi went on to face Nicco Montano for the inaugural Flyweight belt and ultimately suffered the same fate as her semi-final matchup with Eubanks; Looking back at the title fight, ‘Sarj’ said ‘As soon as they announced it then I knew that was exactly how it would go. It was interesting to watch but I think it was pretty clear that neither one was gonna finish the other – Nicco is more of a grinding clinch fighter and Roxanne doesn’t really have finishing power, so I thought it would be a back and forth ugly fight and that’s exactly how it went. Nicco has got a tonne of heart too, you’ve gotta give her credit for that’.
Before Sijara starts thinking about who she will be fighting next, the first port of call is to ensure that she doesn’t experience the same issues as she did during her last cut; Eubanks explains ‘I went out to the UFC PI for 3 weeks, so I’ve got a good nutrition and weight loss plan that will take some time, but as soon as I get the ok then I’ll get out there’.
Nicco has previously expressed in interviews that she still feels Eubanks is the most deserving contender, having earned her shot in the seeded competition – Eubanks though isn’t getting her hopes up just yet, explaining ‘I would love to, but it sounds like it might not go that way. I’ll fight whoever the UFC wants me to for a title shot, but now that Valentina has made her debut, that seems to be the matchup. I want a crack at the belt and I don’t care who it is’.
Despite Montano being the Champion, Valentina Shevchenko seems to be the consensus pick for the top spot of the division, but that isn’t scaring away Sijara – ‘She is tough, but I wanna be the best and it looks like she’s on her way, so we’re on a collision course’ she said confidently.
The Women’s Featherweight division has been in for much criticism since its creation, with there being very little competition outside of a dominant champion in Cyborg; The Flyweight division seems to be taking shape with more fighters declaring themselves as contenders every day – ‘The flyweight division is like the wild, wild west so far’ Eubanks said, explaining ‘Girls are coming up from 115, girls are coming down from 135, the girls who were gatekeepers in either division are moving to see what they can do at flyweight and so I think it’ll take about a year for the rankings to really clear themselves up. I think the top of the heap is pretty self-explanatory – you’ve got myself, Valentina and Nicco as the champ, so the top 3 is easy, but the rest is a free for all’.
Eubanks first got started in MMA through jiu-jitsu as she recalls ‘I kind of wanted to get into MMA in general, but my jiu-jitsu coach said that you’ve gotta have some type of foundation, so I started doing jiu-jitsu to get into MMA and I fell in love with it, I even thought about sticking with it on it’s own, but I just love fighting too much’. Despite her jiu-jitsu credentials, there seems to be a perception that she is just a power striker in the main part, which feels strange to ‘Sarj’, she said ‘I think my jiu jitsu is underrated, which is weird because I’m a 7 time world champion in IBJJF. I think I’ve got some of the best jiu-jitsu not only in womens MMA, but in mens MMA too’.
As always, I posed the question to Sijara as to why she fights and after a brief pause she confessed that she wasn’t too sure herself – ‘It takes a special kind of person to fall in love with getting punched in the head’ she said, before laughing, and she’s hoping that her love will guide her all the way to the title in the near future, as she closes our interview stating ‘I want to be a champion for a long time’.