Paige VanZant has quickly become the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sweetheart.
With a bubbling personality, "it factor" for days, and dance moves that can hang with the best of them, "12 Gauge" has soared to the top of the radar with fans, opponents, and sponsors alike. And it doesn't hurt that she's pretty good at this mixed martial arts (MMA) thing, too.
But, according to her former coach at Reno Academy of Combat, Rick Collup, it's all a front and people aren't seeing the real Paige.
So, who exactly is the real Paige VanZant? To hear Rick tell it, she's a fit-throwing, no-loyalty-having person who doesn't know what honesty and morals are.
"I'm writing this to everyone who knows of Ms Paige Vanzant and our gym which is the Reno Academy of Combat. I would have never written anything like this but I was totally shocked and so were several others when we read her interview in a MMA magazine. I was shocked, hurt and truthfully very irritated that Paige didn't mention that she actually started her MMA career at our gym. Her parents actually brought her to us because she was very unhappy where she had been training for less than a year. Her parents stated that Paige was ignored at her old gym and no one would train with her. When she came to our gym she didn't have many skills and wanted to receive better training. That gym closed soon after that anyway. As you heard in her own words Paige VanZant started training at the Reno Academy of Combat when she was 16. We (Reno Academy of Combat) got her first under 18 MMA fight of which she won, her first amateur MMA fight which she won and her first pro fight of which she won. She won every fight she fought when she was with us. Paige then left and moved to Vegas only to lose that fight. Then she moved to Sacramento to train with Alpha Male but eventually moved back to Reno as she was (in her own words) ignored there also and didn't get along with Urijah Faber and said all the girls were rude and sucked at MMA. After an apology and a long talk we let her train at our gym again. We cornered and trained her for her UFC debut of which she received fight of the night and a huge following due to her skills that she learned from us. Paige Vanzant was on the Reno Academy of Combat fight team each fight, representing Reno Academy of Combat, with Reno Academy of Combat in her corner every fight but one (the one she lost). Look up any image, video and her UFC post win with fight of the night interview. Who is on her shirt, banner, in her corner etc? Reno Academy of Combat and/or Blood Happens Fight Wear. Her UFC debut walk out shirt was a signature Paige VanZant shirt on sale on BloodHappens.com that she still gets proceeds from. Reno Academy of Combat supported her from the very beginning of her career and helped get her where she is today. Anyway, not to go on and on but it's very sad that some people have no loyalty, honesty or morals! I know one thing is my wife, I and all our gym members / fight team helped her and put up with all her fit throwing for years. I can sleep good at night knowing that we all did the very best for her and were there for her even when she wasn't. Good luck Paige, people will find out the real you eventually. Hope you can sleep at night!"
To conclude, he posted a video of Paige giving credit to his Academy before bolting to sunny California once again.
VanZant's history of bouncing back and forth between gyms is well-documented. Prior to last year's Octagon debut against Kailin Curran at UFC Fight Night 54, she was a ghost at Team Alpha Male, where she had recently been training.
Shortly thereafter, "12 Gauge" revealed that she had to leave California to go back to Nevada to undergo intensive therapy for a spinal injury. Therapy that wasn't covered by her insurance in California.
According to Rick, however, there is more to the story, as he says VanZant asked to get back on her old team because she was being ignored at Team Alpha Male and the girls there "sucked" at MMA. After earning her first UFC win with the help of the Reno Academy of Combat, Paige once again bolted to Sacramento to hook up with Urijah Faber and Co., according to her former coach.
Therein lies the "disloyalty" Collup mentioned.
VanZant will next take on Felice Herrig at UFC on FOX 15 on April 18, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. For more on that upcoming strawweight battle click here.