UFC 257: Joanne Calderwood must beat Jessica Eye on Fight Island - Paul Craig

By Lauren DickBBC Scotland
Joanne Calderwood kicks opponent Jennifer Maia at UFC Fight Night in August 2020
Joanne Calderwood kicks opponent Jennifer Maia at UFC Fight Night in August 2020
UFC 257: McGregor v Poirier
Venue: Fight Island, Abu Dhabi Date: Sunday, 24 January Time: Main card from 03:00 GMT
Coverage: Follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app from 03:00.

Twenty-one years of fighting. Reality TV fame. And now living the American dream in Las Vegas. It is a story most people can only imagine, but it is life for Joanne Calderwood.

Scotland's only professional female mixed martial artist swapped Ayrshire for the USA, joining UFC after competing for a contract on reality show 'The Ultimate Fighter' in 2013.

She sits seventh in the women's flyweight category and is up against Jessica Eye, who sits one rank above her, in a fight at UFC 257 this weekend.

"Eye has been beaten by the best in the division, but Joanne Calderwood is one of the best in the division," fellow UFC athlete Paul Craig tells BBC Scotland.

Calderwood's bout takes place in Abu Dhabi, where UFC has taken over Yas Island and dubbed it 'Fight Island', and is on the undercard of the contest between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

It will be one of the first times crowds are welcomed back, with 2,000 people in an 18,000-seat venue.

"The fans fuel you, even with their boos and jeers. You need to use that or it'll burn you up. McGregor is good at using a crowd and there's going to be electricity in the air on Saturday," says Craig.

The event marks the return of former double champion McGregor after a year out, but the night is just as crucial for Calderwood if she wants to achieve her goal of getting a title shot.

The Scot has sustained two defeats in her last three contests, most recently losing by a nasty armbar submission against Jennifer Maia in August 2020 and badly damaging her arm in the process.

Speaking at a UFC 257 media day, Calderwood says she is more than ready for Eye and would stay on the island if another fight opportunity arose.

"We both wanted this fight last year. I like her style. I know she always brings it, so it'll be exciting," she said.

"If Dana White [UFC president] said on Saturday there's another fight for me, I'll be ready the next day."

In UFC, fighters need a persona as well as ability to thrive - "good back stories," explains Craig - so Calderwood needs a win this weekend to build her own narrative and prove she can be a champion.

She has a professional record of 14-5-0 and adding a few more wins would put her in a favourable place to challenge current women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

If she loses again, though, it could be a downward slope for the 34-year-old.

"I'd love to see somebody Scottish fighting for the title. We won't get that chance until Calderwood gets another few wins," Craig said.

"Every win is crucial. She needs to go in with the attitude that it is do or die."

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