As Paige VanZant’s fight contract with the UFC came to a close, her free agency was something to monitor. Would she re-sign with the promotion, or join her husband Austin Vanderford in Bellator? It turns out, none of the above.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was the first to report that VanZant has signed an exclusive, multi-fight deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. The deal is reportedly worth over $1 million with incentives. It appears that she declined an offer to join Bellator as well. The 26-year-old VanZant (8-5) teased signing with a promotion on social media, stating on Instagram:
“Contract Signed. About to change the game. Fight news coming soon.”
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VanZant made her MMA debut in 2012 and fought for Invicta once. She was signed by the UFC in 2013 to compete in the newly-created strawweight division. Beating Kailin Curran in her debut, VanZant would end up beating future BKFC champion Bec Rawlings in 2016. Injuries plagued the latter half of her run with the promotion.
Her last fight was a submission win against Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 in July. Overall, “12 Gauge” was 5-4 with the UFC. VanZant planned on discussing a contract while also undergoing one last arm surgery. She suffered a broken arm at the hands of Jessica-Rose Clark in January 2018 and would fracture her arm not long after. During her time with the promotion, VanZant was also working on other entertainment ventures.
VanZant stated to Helwani that she won’t close the door on an MMA return as of the moment. She would also end up telling Helwani:
“I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I’m just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to be people that’s not the way I see myself at all.”
BKFC, around since 2018, has two championships for women: a World and American Featherweight Championship. The current champions are Rawlings and Helen Peralta. Regarding pay, VanZant was looking for a significant pay increase after stating she made more on reality shows compared to her run in the UFC.
An announcement for her debut has not been released yet.