Paige VanZant is officially off to the squared circle to try her hand as a professional wrestler.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight and Flyweight prospect last fought in her original sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) when suffering a first-round armbar submission defeat to Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 in July 2020. VanZant has since gone on to compete as a boxer for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) before recently signing with All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
“I could retire tomorrow and be financially free, and my kids would be pretty close to being financially free,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “I’m fortunate enough, I did build my name up, I know how hard I worked in the UFC and I know how much dedication I had. I did all the appearances nobody else wanted to do. I traveled the world. Every weekend, I was in a different state doing appearances. I was fortunate enough, I did have that grind mentality to build my name up. I did social media, ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ really did what I could to build myself as a business and as a brand.
“So then when my contract ended with UFC, I was able to go out there and be fortunate enough to sign with BKFC,” she continued. “They offered me a great contract. It opened the doors to all these other things that I wasn’t really able to do when I was with UFC.”
VanZant, 27, is allowed the option to continue competing in BKFC along with AEW and any possible MMA opportunities. Though she admits that MMA is no longer something she needs to do, that applies to every other venture as well. For her, it’s just about the love of the journey now.
The majority of VanZant’s 8-5 MMA career came in the Octagon where she fought nine times and took on names like Michelle Waterson, Jessica-Rose Clark and current women’s Strawweight champion, Rose Namajunas. Although “PVZ” enjoyed her time with the promotion, she believes those days are squarely behind her.
“Of course, I love the UFC,” VanZant said. “I love the organization. There’s a reason they are as successful as they are. There’s a reason they were able to get to this level. They have a well-oiled machine and they’re very, very good at it.
“But, I know in my heart that I will never fight for them again, just because they don’t pay enough,” she concluded. “I don’t see the benefit of going back to the UFC. Right now, I’m fortunate enough, I built myself up to a specific place and I can take that and use it wherever I go.”