When rumors first started circulating that Paige VanZant was in talks with bare-knuckle boxing promotion BKFC, fans were skeptical. While her MMA career had hit some sizeable speedbumps, VanZant was still one of MMA’s most notable performers. Was she really going to jump ship to a whole different sport?
Not to mention, as an athlete who had carved out a celebrity status with her run on Dancing with the Stars – and who has recently been working to pitch herself to other reality shows – a move to bare-knuckle fighting seemed like an incredibly risky choice, given the heavy amounts of aesthetic damage the sport can cause. For VanZant however, it doesn’t sound like she’s at all concerned bout getting dinged up in competition.
“A cut on your face always heals,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “I’ve been cut open before and people still think I’m pretty, and it hasn’t hurt my career yet. For me, it comes down to just being an athlete and this is the promotion that sparked my passion. Obviously, we did have huge players in the game. We had really big offers all over the place. But the offer that excited me and the promotion that excited me was this one. Because it’s something that’s new, it’s exciting. I’m excited to have that passion and fire back in me as an athlete.
“My family was nervous about anywhere I went so it’s truly whatever I wanted to do and it wasn’t a thought for me to get cut open. I feel like at this point, I’ll be paid well enough I can have plastic surgery. I have a plastic surgeon on speed dial and I can send him a text and say hey, you’ve got to fix me up.”
Added to that carefree demeanor is an offer from BKFC president David Feldman that may have just been too good for ‘12 Gauge’ to turn down. She won’t just be getting paid for her expected four fights with the promotion, she’ll also be getting “more opportunities to grow her personality,” as Feldman put it.
“It’s a multi-million dollar deal and we’re not even talking the sprinkles and the cherries that go on top of the sundae,” VanZant’s manager, Malki Kawa, enthused—alongside reports that that the former UFC talent will also be doing commentary and other broadcasting work for BKFC. “Dave made a very strong offer. It’s a four-fight deal so it’s not anything crazy. It’s a four-fight deal and Dave and I sat and planned out these four fights on how they should look, when they should be, over the course of the next 16 to 18 months and I think that if everything goes the way that we expect it to go between the three of us, Paige, Dave and myself, multi-million will turn even bigger than that.
“Here’s the thing, I’ll be honest with you, me and Dave came to a lot of agreements on this contract and one of them is that she’s going to bare-knuckle box, I said absolutely just as she would have signed with Bellator or ONE or the UFC, it would be an exclusive agreement. The one thing that Dave did allow us to do was anything outside of MMA or boxing, which includes pro wrestling or grappling, any of that other stuff.”
Ultimately, it sounds like VanZant is happy to have a chance to really let her hands go. “If you look at my MMA career, my biggest downfall has been my jiu-jitsu,” she explained, “and my striking has been my passion. I’m so excited to show that off.”
Current plans are for VanZant to debut sometime in November or December. Alongside the announcement of VanZant’s signing, Feldman also revealed that the promotion has brought in another two dozen female fighters to the BKFC organization. No word yet on who VanZant will be making her debut against, but for the moment it appears she’ll be a major part of the promotion’s push into women’s boxing.