Photo via 12GaugePaigeVanzant.com
Paige VanZant is cute as a button, but she's also ferocious when she needs to be. "12 Gauge" if slated to face her most difficult opponent of her career later tonight, but first she spoke with MMAmania.com in an exclusive interview. Get to know the former ring girl better below.
Paige VanZant is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.
While she's currently a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, she's also a part time model, a former ring girl, cheerleader, dancer and believes she's even got a future as a gourmet chef. That's quite a lot of hobbies to balance when you're beating people up for a living.
"12 Gauge" lives and trains out of the House of Ryu Gym in Las Vegas where's she's developed some killer cagefighting skills to go along with her killer looks, quickly jumping out to a 2-0 professional record despite fighting her first two opponents in hostile territory.
VanZant is expecting to face the stiffest test of her young career later tonight (Jan. 5, 2013) when she takes on fellow unbeaten strawweight prospect Tecia Torres on the Invicta FC 4 preliminary card in Kansas City, Kansas.
The unbeaten prospect spoke to MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission where she spoke about the conflicts of being both a model and a cagefighter, breaking the stereotype of pretty girls and tough sports and what she expects against Torres later tonight in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You have had one of the more interesting transitions to MMA I've ever seen. I know you started training for self defense purposes, but you are probably the only female professional fighter that's been a fighter after starting out as a ring girl.
Paige VanZant: You know, I actually started training just because my dad wanted me to take some classes with him. He's a tremendous fan of the sport. So I go to one of the gyms and they asked me if I wanted to be a ring girl and I told them I was actually there to train. They then asked me, "Do you want to be a ring girl?" I figured I'd be closer to the action, closer to the fighting and once I actually was ready to fight, I stopped being a ring girl and have only fought. I loved all the action. The other girls weren't really paying attention but I loved every second of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You got involved in training martial arts after being on the receiving end of a scary situation in high school where you were surrounded by some upperclassmen and getting pushed and bullied. Put yourself back in those shoes after all the training you've received. What do you think happens this time around?
Paige VanZant: You know, this time I would actually stand up for myself and I'm very happy to have the confidence to know I would be able to do that and I would be able to stand up for myself and not let anyone get to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You wound up at the House of Ryu for your training under former Xtreme Couture coach Ron Frazier. What's that been like to hone your skills with some true professionals?
Paige VanZant: Ron Frazier really knows what he's doing and he understands what I want to get out of this career. I have a lot of fun when I'm at the gym. I'm having fun with my training partners and I'm still learning a lot. He makes it fun for me without taking the excitement or fun out of fighting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that the thing you like least about fighting is getting punched in the face. How have you worked to get that out of your system because getting punched in the face is going to happen when you're an MMA fighter?
Paige VanZant: We work on different techniques to not get hit as often and that's important if you want to be successful. I don't think anyone actually enjoys getting hit in the face. You get used to it. My new thing that I am just having to start doing that I don't like has been cutting weight. I do not like cutting weight at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Cutting weight has to be pretty rough for you considering you have a hobby being a gourmet chef and have spoken about potentially doing that as a career down the road.
Paige VanZant: I do. Yeah, I love to eat and I love to cook. Luckily, I've been finding new ways to cook food in a healthier way so I'm still able to combine the weight cutting with my passion of cooking. 115 pounds is a pretty tough weight cut for me and I don't feel strong going below that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a lot of dance experience, about 13 years before transitioning to MMA plus you had some years as a cheerleader. Have you noticed if that has helped your balance at all and have you ever tried Capoeira, which is a combination of dancing and fighting out of Brazil?
Paige VanZant: I have definitely noticed that I have some really good balance and it's also really helped with my flexibility but in some ways, it's made it harder to transition to fighting. There's a few things that counteract each other that I've had trouble working on and Ron Frazier has helped me fix those bad habits. The biggest one is I do not like to bend my knees and I'll be boxing with my knees completely locked at times which would make a takedown extremely easy. There's a few things else that it hinders and Ron's been really good at helping me fix that habit. It's almost gone now but he'll still catch me doing it every now and then.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Something I'll hear you mention in multiple interviews is the phrase "More than just a pretty face." Is that one of your goals, do overcome the stereotype of just being pretty, that you can surprise some people with what you're capable of?
Paige VanZant: I do. I do want to prove I'm more than just a pretty face. I want to show that girls my size, my age, the group I come from can do tough sports and do anything we set our minds to. Just because we have a pretty face doesn't mean we've had an easy path. I hope I can be an inspiration to girls that want to try something that can give them confidence, even if something like mixed martial arts isn't the most masculine thing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you do modeling on the side of your cagefighting career. You can take a look at the male fighters who have been competing for a long time and they aren't going to be winning any beauty pageants. How does that work with you balancing a career in having to look pretty with potentially getting roughed up inside a cage?
Paige VanZant: Yeah, well I started modeling when I was 10 and it's still a very active part of my life. It's nice because I've got the fitness incorporated into my everyday life. I can do the fitness modeling and that works back and forth with each other very well. I understand that I could get hit in the face or there could be something that hinders my modeling and I'm okay with that. It's a risk to take and I'll only fight or only model until that's not what I want to do anymore and then I'll transition.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like this could be what you want to do for your whole career or is it more of a hobby right now?
Paige VanZant: You know, fighitng to me right now is a hobby. I fell into fighting and I really loved it. It's really beneficial and I'm very lucky to have a hobby that I can make money with and I'm fine with that. At some point in the future, I'm actually looking forward to being a stay-at-home mom.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your upcoming opponent Tecia Torres is pretty ferocious. She spent a lot of time in kickboxing before transitioning to MMA and she trains out of American Top Team. What do you expect out of her with this upcoming fight?
Paige VanZant: She has amazing stand-up and she's very, very strong. She's going to be my toughest opponent to date. I'm in it for the fun and the experience and I know that it's gonna be a really good fight. I'm not sure where we're gonna take the fight but I know I have a chance to win and so does she and we'll see what happens.