Former UFC strawweight Paige VanZant will be leaving her gloves behind when she makes her bare-knuckle boxing debut on Friday night.
VanZant fights Britain Hart in the main event of BKFC: Knucklemania on Feb. 5th. One of the most popular fighters during her time in the UFC, VanZant had the “it factor,” according to Dana White which led to her being one of the few fighters to receive an individual Reebok sponsorship deal. The 26-year-old fought out of her contract last July and signed a lucrative $1,000,000 deal (plus incentives) with BKFC the following month.
Speaking to Bloody Elbow ahead of her BKFC debut, VanZant opened up about her time in the UFC and why she feels comfortable in her transition to bare-knuckle fighting.
“I’m really fortunate that I had a big following but I worked my way up,” VanZant said. “I was the #6 ranked fighter [in my division] based off of wins and finishes.
“The idea of being a UFC fighter is amazing and I loved being part of their organization, but I don’t miss anything. I have everything I’ve ever needed here at BKFC; especially that I’m being compensated for it now. I feel I’m right where I belong and I’m happy with my decision.”
VanZant achieved a lot during her six-year UFC stint, winning her first three fights, breaking into the upper echelon at strawweight and headlining two Fight Night events. She will now get the chance to headline a pay-per-view in her first BKFC event, something she’s very grateful for. But not everyone was a fan of VanZant’s transition. Bec Rawlings, who VanZant defeated by KO back in 2016, was critical of the move stating she “would have no hope” in a bare-knuckle fight against her.
“The one thing I didn’t do in the UFC was headline a pay-per-view. I’ve been in the main event twice, been in the top ten. I’ve been extremely successful, and now to headline a PPV card is something I can be thankful for. There’s a lot of people trying to get momentum off my name. It’s silly, we’ve already fought so that has been laid to rest. There’s no reason to say anything like that until you watch me fight.”
You can watch VanZant’s first BKFC fight this Friday, February 5th, for $19.99 on Fite TV.