Former UFC strawweight Paige VanZant made quite the left turn when she opted to enter bare-knuckle boxing in August. “12 Gauge” signed a “multi-million dollar contract” under BKFC, with her debut set for Super Bowl Weekend on February 7th.
But a slight shift in her combat sports career doesn’t mean she’s closing her doors on MMA just yet. According to husband Austin Vanderford, VanZant entered bare-knuckle boxing with the goal of becoming a well-rounded fighter.
“[I know] she’s more than likely going to come back to MMA,” Vanderford told The Telegraph (via Yahoo! Sports). “She wants to try and work on becoming a more well rounded fighter. “I’m biased, but in my opinion she will be one of the best [female fighters] in the world [when she does return].”
Vanderford’s perfect world scenario would be to have VanZant fighting alongside him in Bellator. But as of now, he’s playing the supportive husband role.
“Of course I would be a liar if I said I didn’t want her to be here and join me in Bellator,” he said. “But that decision took a lot of soul-searching for her.
“She felt at this point in her career she needed to make some changes to continue to compete with the top girls. What she’s going to do now will extend the longevity of her career. I know that sounds ironic since she’s going to fight in bare knuckle. But she’s only 26 and this gives her the opportunity to work on some things. Really work on her striking.”
VanZant’s last MMA fight took place in July at UFC 251 on Fight Island against Amanda Ribas. She lost via armbar in the first round.