In retrospect, perhaps we should’ve known things weren’t going to end well for Jessica Eye when she deleted her Twitter account.
Eye abandoned the social media service on Monday after vehemently denying reports that she’d tested positive for marijuana at last October's UFC 166 and amid heated exchanges with fans and the reporter who broke the news.
“Hope we get to meet one day soon so I can personally tell you how I feel,” the UFC women’s bantamweight fighter wrote to Bloody Elbow’s Brent Brookhouse by way of saying goodbye.
At the time it seemed plausible that Eye simply didn’t want to deal with the public criticism as she prepares to fight Alexis Davis at UFC 170 on Feb. 22.
Now that we know the truth, her withdrawal strikes a different tone.
Maybe it wasn’t just the tactless retreat of a fighter trying to get her game face on but, rather, a speedy getaway.
On Monday afternoon, Damon Martin of Fox Sports confirmed Brookhouse’s story that Eye’s positive test had indeed been for marijuana and that she was notified of it by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in late November.
Further, Martin reported that on Jan. 15 Eye signed and returned a document acknowledging her year-long probationary suspension and agreeing to pay a $1,875 fine—and that she'd already made the first of eight monthly installments.
In other words (and despite earlier reports from Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter that she had tested positive for blood thinners) there’s really no way Eye could’ve been confused about her own situation when she went after Brookhouse on Twitter. She couldn’t have been uninformed last week when she told Fox Sports she planned to appeal the TDLR’s decision to strip her of her four-month-old win over Sarah Kaufman.
Worse yet, she must’ve known exactly what she was doing on Monday when she went on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour and tried to make the whole thing sound like a clerical error.
“I don't want to say anything for anyone to use against me, but there were some mistakes that I made on my behalf that I didn't give enough knowledge (to the commission) ahead of time…,” Eye said. “I'm going to continue to push forward and just not let anything like this ever happen again, or ever leave any kind of allegations out there to be kind of put out there about me."
We don’t know why Eye said these things—so many words, such little substance—instead of just giving it to us straight: She smoked weed, she got caught, end of story.
Or at least, that's what we assume now is the real story and if the truth is any different, well, she should've told us that, too.
Maybe she was embarrassed, or got some bad advice from her friends or training partners, or just didn’t think the much-maligned “MMA media” was going to find out the truth.
Whatever her reasons, rather than admit what’d she’d done, Eye committed the cardinal sin of public relations. She engaged in a cover-up that was far worse than the actual crime.
Had she just come clean and admitted that she’d tested positive for marijuana when the news broke last week, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about it today.
Instead, Eye put on a clinic in how to make a bad situation even more damaging.
When we think of her now, the first thing we'll all remember about her is that time she lied to us, and that's something no public figure wants.
It’s simultaneously bizarre and perfectly fitting that in 2014—nearly 10 years after we all trumpeted the sport’s entry into the mainstream—MMA fighters aren’t getting better public relations advice.
We can only assume that Eye didn’t have a professional to advise her in this situation. Surely, all of this could’ve been prevented had there only been a publicist around to tell Eye not to fudge it.
Or to tell her not to publicly threaten the reporter who broke the story.
Or not to swear up a blue streak on her Twitter before dramatically announcing her departure.
Should Eye have had the common sense not to lead a campaign of double-speak and misinformation through the press during the past few days? Sure, probably, but to the extent media sensitivity is part of her job description, it's certainly ancillary to striking, grappling and Octagon control. She should have people for that.
We must assume she couldn't afford proper representation—a sad commentary on our sport at large, and a larger discussion best left for another day—and that she was on her own.
Left to her own devices, she couldn’t have known how badly it would look for her after Fox Sports published scans of the actual TDLR documents, complete with her signature. She couldn't have had the foresight to know that by lying she was just going to make things worse for herself when she shows up in Las Vegas next week to fight Davis.
Assuming she’ll be licensed and cleared to compete.
Now, there will only be more questions. It will take far longer for her to battle her way out from under this cloud—pun fully intended.
Now, she’ll have to dodge far more jokes and uncomfortable encounters than if she’d just stayed on Twitter and told us the truth.
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