Paige VanZant has found a new home.
The former UFC fighter says she has signed a new four-fight, exclusive contract with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
Her debut for BKFC isn’t set yet, but the current plan is for her to compete in November.
“It was an amazing contract, an amazing opportunity,” VanZant told ESPN. “I also feel like it’s not a move backwards for me. It’s a lateral move to a new opportunity, a new challenge, a brand new sport. I really have sparked a brand new passion for it and especially for striking in general.
“And, on top of that, I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I’m just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to people that’s not the way I see myself at all. This is a sport where people probably have the highest rate of getting cut open and having long-term scars is definitely something that I’m not even worried about for me. It’s just the love of competition and I’m really excited to go out there and show off in such an amazing sport.”
The totality of the deal is worth over $1 million, with incentives attached. It represents a significant raise from what she was making in the UFC.
The 26-year-old VanZant completed her UFC contract in July following her loss to Amanda Ribas at UFC 251. She left the organization with a 5-4 record inside the Octagon and an 8-5 pro record. She’s never competed in bare knuckle fighting or pro boxing.
VanZant hasn’t ruled out a return to MMA.
“I don’t know that I am done with MMA,” VanZant said. “I know momentarily I am. I still have a huge passion for MMA, and I just recently relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team. Obviously they are one of the best MMA gyms in the world. Right now, my sole focus is boxing, but in a few years I could go back to MMA or I could just be making so much doing this bare knuckle boxing that I don’t do anything else.”
One of the more popular fighters in MMA, VanZant, who reached the finals of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2016, had been outspoken recently over her pay in the UFC, claiming she made more on the reality show than in her entire UFC career combined. She also said she could earn more posting on Instagram than in one UFC fight on her old deal.
Sources say the promotion didn’t engage in serious talks to re-sign her going into her final fight. VanZant did speak with other MMA organizations after the Ribas fight before coming to terms with BKFC.
“I talked to a lot of different promotions,” VanZant said. “I actually had no idea that I would have so many come with such big offers. I knew I would get the big players in the game, like Bellator or ONE, but I actually had five or six huge, solid promotions that I had to decide on. For me, at this moment in my career, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship was the one that fit best.”