Paige VanZant finished the final fight on her UFC contract last month and has now signed with the controversial bare-knuckle promotion Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
She shocked the world with the signing as she will put her MMA gloves aside and compete in one of the fastest-growing brutal competitions in the world.
VanZant’s manager Malki Kawa explained her free agency brought many offers from promotions all over the world but the BKFC offer was the most serious.
“Paige is getting paid very, very well but she’s also getting more opportunities here or more opportunities to grow her personality really,” Feldman said. “With that Paige is really helping us, she has a tremendous following and she gets it. She really gets it. What needs to be done to take this to the next level.
“That’s why I think it’s a great partnership cause we’re both going to do what’s needed to be done to grow each other.”
Perhaps the biggest question for VanZant’s signing is her knowledge of the brutality of the sport. Many have criticized her move to bare-knuckle fighting.
“Honestly for me, it was never even a thought,” VanZant said. “Everyone is talking about one specific fight that was totally brutal and obviously looked very violent but at the same time, I’m in a position, yeah I understand people think I’m cute but I’m a fighter and an athlete first and foremost.
“For me, in the UFC, I broke my arm and had to have surgery three times. That was a longterm injury that came from being kneed in the arm, from being kicked in the arm, from spinning backfists, those are all things I don’t even have to worry about anymore.”
When she’s not fighting, VanZant has made a career outside the octagon with a notable appearance on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, modeling gigs as part of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and her social media.
She still plans on pursuing those opportunities as well but VanZant isn’t too worried that her face will look different from her bare-knuckle boxing matches.
“A cut on your face always heals,” VanZant said. “I’ve been cut open before and people still think I’m pretty, and it hasn’t hurt my career yet. For me, it comes down to just being an athlete and this is the promotion that sparked my passion. Obviously, we did have huge players in the game. We had really big offers all over the place. But the offer that excited me and the promotion that excited me was this one. Because it’s something that’s new, it’s exciting. I’m excited to have that passion and fire back in me as an athlete.
“My family was nervous about anywhere I went so it’s truly whatever I wanted to do and it wasn’t a thought for me to get cut open. I feel like at this point, I’ll be paid well enough I can have plastic surgery. I have a plastic surgeon on speed dial and I can send him a text and say hey, you’ve got to fix me up.”
“There is that stigma ‘well she’s just a pretty face’ but that’s not how I see myself at all,” VanZant said. “I see myself as a competitor and I see myself as a true, really good striker and an athlete. I think what better way to show that off.”