After father’s dire diagnosis, the UFC’s Jessica Eye fights on
It was shortly after Jessica Eyeâ€™s successful debut atÂ UFC 166 that things started to go downhill for her father, and fast.
â€œHe was collapsing, but he wasnâ€™t telling people about it,â€ Eye (11-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) told MMAjunkie. â€œHe was having eyesight issues. There were some things leading up to it that, now that we know, it feels like maybe if we would have paid closer attention we would have noticed.â€
For one thing, his personality seemed markedly different. Suddenly he wasnâ€™t quite himself. He suffered from bad bouts of vertigo. Just before Thanksgiving, he collapsed, then hauled himself into bed, only to find that he couldnâ€™t get up again.
â€œThatâ€™s when we were like, â€˜Hey, itâ€™s time to go to the hospital.â€™ Then they did a CT scan and found the mass in his brain,â€ said Eye.
The day before Thanksgiving, 55-year-old Randy Eye had, according to his daughter, a â€œbaseball-sized tumorâ€ removed from his brain. The diagnosis was stage IV glioblastoma, a rare, highly aggressive form of malignant brain cancer. The median survival rates arenâ€™t terribly promising. If left untreated, itâ€™s usually a matter of a few months. With treatment, maybe a year or more. Not exactly the news the Eye family was hoping for just before the holidays set in.
â€œBut Iâ€™m just thankful that my fatherâ€™s still here,â€ Eye, 27, said. â€œWe did catch it. Now heâ€™s got a pretty big fight ahead of him. Iâ€™m just hoping I can help him and support him in any way possible.â€
One of the ways Eye is trying to do just that is with a GoFundMe site to defray her fatherâ€™s medical costs and aid in his battle, which according to Eye is just beginning. Itâ€™s the least she could do, she said, for the man whoâ€™s been her most ardent fan throughout her fighting career.
â€œMy dad was a single father for a long time,â€ said Eye. â€œHeâ€™s been my biggest supporter since I started with all this. He always had my back, always cheered me on, and was always there for me. He really enjoyed the fact that I was as competitive as I am, because thatâ€™s how he is.â€
That might be why her father has no trouble understand Eyeâ€™s need to stay sharp and ready, despite this ongoing struggle. Though itâ€™s sometimes difficult to get her workouts in between trips to the hospital, Eye said, she prides herself on how rarely she misses training sessions, even if she has to get them in alone late at night.
She also recently bought her father an iPhone, she said, so they could use Facetime to stay in contact even when she canâ€™t make it to the hospital to see him. And if the UFC called tomorrow to offer her another bout and a chance to capitalize on the momentum from her split-decision victory over womenâ€™s MMA veteran Sarah Kaufman?
â€œAbsolutely Iâ€™d be ready,â€ Eye said. â€œThatâ€™s my job as a professional. My ability to fight doesnâ€™t go away. My ability to fight should be always there, regardless of whatâ€™s going on in my life. Thatâ€™s how Iâ€™ve always thought about my career. No matter whatâ€™s going on in my life, I will always fight.â€
To hear Eye tell it, thatâ€™s a trait she gets from her father, who will likely need all the fight heâ€™s got in the months ahead. The good news is, at least heâ€™s not in the battle alone.