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Paige VanZant on MMA rise: 'I deserve to be where I am'

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Paige VanZant was at a recent Reebok media event to show off her new pumps and talk to the press about her rise in the UFC.

Paige VanZant is one of the fastest rising talents in MMA. While she's only fought in the UFC once, and is just 5-1 for her pro career, the strawweight is also just the second woman to get her own individual Reebok deal since the sportswear retailer signed an exclusive sponsorship agreement with the UFC. She's also got a big main card bout with Felice Herrig coming up at UFC on Fox 15, a bout she once infamously said she knew she'd be getting "because we're the hot girls in the sport." It was an offhand remark, but it sparked some controversy from other strawweight fighters who felt they were having trouble getting their own fights booked.

Still, controversy hasn't dimmed VanZant's star at all and, as she told Ariel Helwani, she feels like she's right where she should be:

No it's not happening too fast at all. I'm very fortunate. I have to keep busy, otherwise I kind of get bored. If I wasn't dong this, I'd be doing something else. I have to stay busy. I'm young, I guess, so I have a lot of energy.
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Yeah, I just got the phone call. My managers let me know that it was something that could happen. I met the Reebok people at one of the UFC events and we just really had a connection. And that's when they decided to pick me up as an athlete. And it's been awesome ever since.

And her message to critics of her Reebok deal:

Yeah. I mean, my response is "Why not?" I mean, why shouldn't I? Why don't I deserve it? I'm just going to hopefully be a very good representation to Reebok and I can continue to be a good representation to the UFC as well.

VanZant also revisited the "hot girls" comment once again, saying that she felt like she was "completely taken out of context" and that people "misunderstood what she was trying to say."

You know, the media can twist what you say in a hundred different ways and make you seem like you say things that you didn't. So, I really hope that people will get to know me as a person and understand that I didn't mean any harm by that. And I hope that they'll really like me and understand that I'm very talented and I deserve to be where I am.