Sijara Eubanks gives her thoughts on returning to bantamweight at UFC Rochester, the chance to avenge her loss to Aspen Ladd, and who will come out on top in Game of Thrones.
Rochester, NY — Sijara Eubanks has fought at bantamweight before. But at UFC Rochester on Saturday night, she’ll make her debut at 135lbs in the UFC. It’ll come against Aspen Ladd, the last woman she fought at bantamweight, and the last woman to defeat her.
It’s a chance to even the score, and avoid a weight cut that took the fun out of fighting, she explained to reporters including Cageside Press at Thurday’s UFC Rochester media day.
Heading in, she’s feeling good. Feeling great, even. “New weight class. Everybody’s going to ask me about that. So far so good on that. I feel healthier, I feel stronger, so ready to rock and roll!”
Now that she’s making her bantamweight debut in the UFC, there’s no plans on heading back down. “I’ll be here a while. For sure. I’ll be here a long time,” said Eubanks (4-2), allowing just a little wiggle room. “Never say never, is kind of a little thing I’ve been saying. But I don’t anticipate leaving this weight class anytime soon. I’ve got goals to beat, my goal is to be champion.”
With that in mind, “I don’t want to be hopping back and forth and elongate that goal any more than I already have. So yeah, I’ll be here a little while.”
The difference between the two divisions, albeit just ten pounds, is huge, she explained. “10 fewer pounds is a really big difference. Throughout the camp I felt amazing. I think that has given me a lot of confidence coming into this fight.”
Without the need to severely restrict her diet, “I was able to train like an animal. I was able to train like an athlete for the first time in a really long time,” Eubanks stated. “I said a lot of times this week, martial arts is fun. You get into this sport because you love it. And I wasn’t really loving it at flyweight.”
“Now, at bantamweight, I’m able to lift, I’m able to run, I’m able to wrestle, I’m able to get after it after practice. I’m able to put in more time after practice is done, drilling and working on certain things I was just too exhausted to, or didn’t have the calories, to get done.”
Summing it up, “I feel like I traded in my little sports car for a Mack truck,” she said.
There’s also motherhood motivating her, another new wrinkle. “Donald Cerrone’s been killer since he had a kid,” she pointed out. Cerrone has often talked about how fatherhood has changed him. Eubanks has had a similar epiphany. “It does kind of change your whole outlook. MMA fighters are selfish, it’s a selfish kind of sport. And I was always fighting for me.”
Now, “it’s kind of different to fight for somebody [else]. And not just to put food on the table, but just to make my kid proud. It also kind of takes some of the stress off. My daughter’s two, but she doesn’t know or care what I’m doing. Winning or losing, good day or bad day, she just wants to see me come home. And when I come home, she’s excited about it.”
Kids, after all, love you and look up to you without really knowing you, Eubanks later pointed out. Which makes her “want to be as cool as you think I am,” she said of how she wants to change for her daughter.
All the more reason to change weight classes. Although the decision really came to her in her last struggle to make the flyweight limit. “When I was 127.5 in a hotel room, and dry as a bone and couldn’t get any more off. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this, guys.’ I’m as stubborn as they come. I was really digging hard.”
As she gets older, Eubanks realizes that there’s only so much you can put your body through. She also recognized that she would need to change her whole body composition for 125lbs. “And that takes time, and I knew I didn’t have that kind of time. I wanted to get right back to fighting. And like I said it wasn’t fun.”
“Cutting weight is never fun, but cutting the way I was cutting was dangerous. And it just made the camp not fun, it made fighting not fun.” It was bad enough that Eubanks had to convince her that she was enjoying the fight game, amping herself up to fight at Madison Square Garden in her last outing. It couldn’t last. So the switch was necessary.
The prospect of fighting Ladd again is also a bonus. “That’s definitely the cherry on top, for sure. When Aspen’s name came up, I thought that was perfect. She’s my last fight at 35, my last loss conceptually, because I haven’t lost since then.”
And so “to be able to come back to 35, at the last stop that I made at 35, and to be able to sort of get that back, it’s definitely found a little extra motivation, a little extra chip on my shoulder throughout the training process. Definitely looking forward to turning that around this weekend.”
Eubanks, a huge Game of Thrones fan (let’s just say she really knows her stuff), also gave her picks for who comes out on top Sunday, when the HBO series comes to a close. You can get her prediction in the video above, which we’ll leave out of this for the sake of avoiding spoilers. However, maybe it won’t matter. “Honestly every theory I’ve had in the last eight years has been wrong, so don’t put your money on it,” she said of her GOT prediction.
Watch the full UFC Rochester media day scrum with Sijara Eubanks above!