They say Paige VanZant shouldn’t be venturing into the world of bare-knuckle boxing. They say she’s too pretty, that she risks permanently damaging her good looks because of the scars that develop from getting punched in the face with bare knuckles.
But to everyone among the proverbial “they” who thinks this, VanZant offered this response Tuesday in her first public appearance as a member of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
“If all of us chose jobs based on what we looked like, we probably wouldn’t be doing what we love to do,” VanZant said. “It’s just not necessarily that’s even a thought for me. I got into MMA when I was about 15 years old, and not once did I think I might not look good in a few years.”
Sitting on the dais alongside BKFC president David Feldman and fellow former UFC fighters Thiago Alves and Hector Lombard, VanZant stood out. She was her usual, bubbly self during a 50-minute news conference at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.
A desire to be “part of the family” with BKFC was a common refrain. It makes sense considering communication between VanZant and Feldman had taken place since she finished her UFC contract last month at UFC 251, where she lost by submission to Amanda Ribas.
“This has been in talks ever since I was a free agent,” said VanZant, who signed a reported multi-million dollar deal with BKFC. “This is kind of where I felt the most passionate about, and it completely lined up with what I wanted and what they wanted, and we were able to create a happy partnership. And I do think we’re both very excited. It’s a win-win for both of us.”
That was a sentiment echoed by Feldman.
“Paige VanZant is not just, I consider, a very, very good fighter. She’s a very talented fighter. She’s got a great social media following. She’s, I would consider, almost an A-lister, being on ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Dancing With The Stars,’” Feldman said. “… With all those things I just said, Paige doesn’t have to do this. There were a lot of offers on her table. So how can you not take your hat off to someone that wants to test themselves and challenge themselves? She’s challenging herself here for greatness, and I think that greatness is gonna have to come out. It’s gonna be a very big win-win proposition for everybody involved.”
Among potential suitors, VanZant said she was tempted to join Bellator, which would’ve meant fighting in the same promotion as husband Austin Vanderford. However, shifting gears from MMA – where she posted an 8-5 record – to focus solely on striking was appealing.
Ultimately, the money and ability to do something different with BKFC proved too great an opportunity for her to pass up.
“I looked at the organization, saw what they stood for,” said VanZant, who also hopes to do TV work for the promotion. “In my MMA career, I was very accomplished. I was in the UFC for almost 6 years, and now I feel like it’s the perfect opportunity to open that next chapter. It’s not necessarily a move backward for me. It’s a move laterally. It’s a whole new obstacle. It’s a whole new opportunity. That’s what really excites me.”
Neither VanZant nor Feldman provided a target date for her debut, though she said it “really won’t be long” until she feels “confident and comfortable taking a fight.”