Jessamyn Duke appears to be in an exceedingly rare position with the UFC. She’s still under contract with the promotion, but she’s getting a chance to fight outside its doors. Duke will face rising bantamweight prospect Irene Aldana at Invicta FC 16 this Friday, March 11th. It will be the 8th pro fight of her career and her first since a loss to Elizabeth Phillips in June of 2015.
And that, it seems, is just the problem. Duke isn’t getting enough opportunities to compete in the UFC, and while she’s on a three fight losing streak at the moment, the promotion is still apparently interested in having her around. The solution, according to Duke in a recent MMAFighting interview, was to ask for a chance to go back out and fight for Invicta:
“I finally went to Dana,” Duke explained, “and I was like, ‘I want to fight for Invicta. Let me go fight for them. Let me get a fight. You know better than anyone — you were there watching the fight — that what I need more than anything is time in the ring.'”
“It’s the frequency of fights that I want,” Duke said. “It doesn’t do me any good to fight once a year. I’ve always in my career been lacking in the experience area. I’ve just never had that much time in the ring. I went pro before I was really ready and then I was on a reality show before I was really ready. I was in the bantamweight division of the UFC before I was really ready. And I’ve been trying to play catch up, so I just need fights. I know Invicta is the place to be. I don’t consider it a step down at all. I just see it as one big women’s division with a bunch of 135ers and I’m looking at all of them.”
Duke has been training at CSW, working alongside Josh Barnett under head coach Erik Paulson. Apparently, and more recently, she’s dedicated herself to re-focusing on being the in-fighter she started out her MMA career as, rather than the out-fighter she’s tried to become over her UFC run. Whether that will see her return to early form, or whether she’ll hit another wall against a bright young prospect remains to be seen.
It’s also worth wondering, while she’s under UFC contract at the moment, will that continue to be the case if she loses outside the promotion this weekend? Questions that only fight night can answer.
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