At face value, the entire Jessica Eye story is beyond overblown. This is one not-yet-famous fighter testing positive for weed and that's it.
The reality, though, is that her non-suspension has touched on so many different topics on so many different levels that it's impossible to be disinterested.
The way it resonated with fans. The questions it raised about Texas's athletic commission. The impact it had on the women's division and UFC 171. The relationship between fans and fighters with the MMA media.
There was something for everyone, and there were lessons to learn from how everything panned out. So what were those lessons?
Find out right here!
So maybe not "Jessica Lie" but "Jessica Half-Truth" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
When word first broke that Eye's first UFC win was changed to a no-contest, fans and media were, understandably, confused. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, who govern MMA in the state, offered no explanation for why it was happening, and didn't even tell Eye or her opponent, Sarah Kaufman, what had happened.
When Bloody Elbow's Brent Brookhouse first confirmed that she had been popped for marijuana, she came out swinging in response. The result was a downright silly rant on Twitter, an attack on Brookhouse and a wacky closing of her account. She kept up the facade in her appearance on the February 10th Edition of the MMA Hour.
At no point did she actually deny smoking a little bit of the stuff, but her message was loud, clear and false. She actively reached out to the MMA media and tried to steer the conversation away from her smoking weed and towards the initially incorrect report that she had failed to report some kind of blood-thinning medication (other than pot, of course), per Bloody Elbow.
Quite frankly, she deserves criticism for that.
Fans and media don't really care about weed anymore. That's just kind of a fact.
The only instance where there was a big hubub was after Nick Diaz tested positive a second time for marijuana, and put his career in jeopardy by unrepentantly vowing to continue using. Even then, that was because of concerns over Diaz's ability to continue getting licensed, not about his smoking.
Quite frankly, if Eye had been completely honest, nothing would have even happened.
Fans would not have turned on her en masse. The media wouldn't have done anything more than put together token "Jessica Eye Admits Marijuana Use" articles. At absolute worst, a minute subsection of the MMA fandom would have said "well that was silly of her" and moved on with their life.
This whole fiasco has done more damage to her image than any potential fallout from her just admitting what led to her punishment.
This kind of goes without saying, but the Texas Department of Regulation and Licensing basically lived up to the reputation people pinned on them. Folks poured onto them regarding how long it took them to suspend Eye, how they handled it, and their lack of comment regarding what the heck had happened.
Here are some of the highlights:
As far as how someone can be suspended and still fight? Well...Texas.— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) February 3, 2014
@MarkFujii The Texas Commission as a whole is pretty ridiculous— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) February 8, 2014
Wait, Texas actually caught someone with its drug testing? That's a new one...— David Greisman (@fightingwords2) February 3, 2014
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of folks who are in the know and have very few positive things to say about the TDRL and they got another talking point after all this.
The stereotype of cage fighters is that they're all boorish neanderthals. While it isn't quite true, fans certainly go to great lengths to push the idea that fighters are as smart as anybody.
For guys like Chael Sonnen, Daniel Cormier, Rich Franklin, Brian Stann, etc. that's completely true. That bunch, however, oftentimes get proven to be the exception to the rule.
When Jessica Eye found herself under the microscope, and put into an awkward position she had never before found herself in, every action she took was the wrong one. From attacking Brent Brookhouse from Bloody Elbow to appearing on the February 10th Edition of the MMA Hour to, essentially, even addressing it at all...she just didn't handle it well.
For a how-to guide on handling a drug controversy, look at Ray Lewis and his deer antler controversy ahead of Super Bowl XLVII. While he was basically caught red-handed using substances banned by the NFL's steroid policy, his firm denial and condescending dismissal of the idea that he did anything wrong quieted much of the talk. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the story to get forgotten which, of course, it did.
Eye didn't do that and, quite clearly, needed direction from a manager or an agent or a publicist...just somebody who actually knew what they were doing. She didn't have that (and if she did, she clearly didn't take their advice).
She isn't alone, either. Matt Brown clearly didn't consult anyone with common sense when he rolled out his podcast, rife with downright foolish statements. Vitor Belfort continues arming his opposition with his ridiculous ramblings on his use of TRT. The list goes on.
Fighters either don't have access to the sorts of people they need when this sort of situation arises, or they just don't listen to them. While that's great for folks like me who get more and more material to work with while writing, it definitely isn't great for the fighters.