Few people have the audacity to try to put UFC President Dana White in his place, but when the powerful, sometimes tyrannical leader decided to yank Sijara Eubanks off her scheduled Madison Square Garden main-event title fight, the fighter didn’t hold back.
“What the … is wrong with you? How are you doing this to me? This is my dream!” the 5-foot-4, 125-pound Eubanks roared at White during a telephone call last month. “You took my dream away from me!”
Eubanks, 33, was named by White on Oct. 2 as the UFC 230 main-event opponent versus former women’s bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko. The bout was to be for the vacant flyweight belt after the UFC was unable to strike a deal with former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones for the main event.
Days later, after UFC hard-core fans led by analyst Joe Rogan, mercilessly ridiculed the choice of the then-anonymous Eubanks on a card typically stacked with talent, White moved to place heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier’s title defense against No. 2-ranked contender Derrick Lewis as the main event.
Shevchenko was promoted off the card to the UFC 231 co-main event on Dec. 8 in a far more attractive title bout against her former Muay Thai rival and former UFC straw-weight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Those moves came despite the presence of a signed contract between Eubanks and the UFC.
“I did have a signed contract, but that’s a big fish to go after with a lawyer. I don’t have that much lawyer money, so that’s why I was like, ‘Let’s settle this on the phone, man.’ It wasn’t a very long talk; it was mostly me yelling,” she said.
“I got Dana on the phone that day and he doesn’t take too many calls from fighters, but I let him know exactly how I felt. My mom wouldn’t have been happy with the number of F-bombs I dropped, but he said, ‘Listen, I’m going to try and do right by you.’
Eubanks replied, “You passed up a ‘Rocky’ moment here. I was going to surprise the world, man, I was gonna put Valentina on her ass, in front of New York City, and it was gonna be a good time. I understand, though, you’ve gotta make your money.”
Eubanks said she’s still receiving residual criticism from fans on social media.
“Screw ya all, man,” she said Thursday at the UFC 230 media day to promote her FS1-televised preliminary fight against No. 7-ranked flyweight Modafferi.
“Who doesn’t take that kind of fight? When you’re offered a title shot, you want to be the champion, you want to be the best. This isn’t the first time. I was offered it before in ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ house. I’m going to take it. The fans might’ve been pissed off, but at the end of the day, it’s my career — it’s me, my life.”
As she’s cooled off with the passing of days, Eubanks said she’s found some peace , and she said White promised her a title shot at the Shevchenko- Jedrzejczyk winner should she win Saturday night. She envisions winning and answering the criticism of Rogan in the post-fight interview.
“One door closes, another opens. It’s not my title shot, but this is a good scenario,” Eubanks said. “I’ll keep asking for [the title shot], keep working and keep beating these girls until I get this belt.
“Why would I be mad? I’m living my life. I’m an East Coast girl. My mom’s coming to see me fight for the first time. I’m fighting at Madison Square Garden. I got paid a little bit more. I’m on my way, on my path to be the best in the world.”