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Quitting exotic dancing ‘was one of the scariest things’ I’ve done - UFC 270’s Vanessa Demopoulos

“Bust your ass for thousands vs. shaking it for dollars.”

Vanessa Demopoulos celebrates after UFC 270 win over Silvana Juarez.
Vanessa Demopoulos celebrates after UFC 270 win over Silvana Juarez.
Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the notable moments of this past weekend’s UFC 270 was Vanessa Demopoulos’ win over Silvana Gomez Juarez. The 33-year-old won the fight via first-round armbar after being knocked down with a right hand.

What made Demopoulos’ win more noteworthy is her personal backstory. During her post-fight scrum, she revealed quitting her job as an exotic dancer merely eight weeks before UFC 270.

Demopoulos recently did an interview with MMAFighting.com’s Mike Heck where she admitted her fears about walking away from her former life.

“I said [I worked as an exotic dancer for] 13 years, but it was longer than that because I started dancing at 18 years old,” she said. “I’m 33 now, I’ve written two books on the industry, I grew up in the industry, and walking away from it was one of the scariest things I have ever done.

“It’s just so scary, man, because that was the way I was making money all of these years to fight full-time.”

When it came to a point where her chosen professions were beginning to be in conflict with each other, Demopoulos had to make a decision.

“I was working at night, training all day, but I was only able to work two nights a week. I was like, ‘F–k! Do I want to make a few dollars? Or do I want to recover and sleep, and make sure I’m taking care of my body and mental space so I can perform better in the cage?’

“I literally wrote this thing on my [whiteboard], ‘Bust your ass for thousands vs. shaking it for dollars.’ That was my big thing this whole camp. I looked at that every single morning.”

“I didn’t have a lot of money. It’s not like I was good [financially] — I wasn’t good, dude. I wasn’t good, and I made the decision and walked away. If it wasn’t for sponsors, there’s no freaking way I’d be able to do any of that. It was a scary time.”

Demopoulos has 11 pro fights under her belt and was a former LFA titleholder. When she finally decided to choose fighting, she made sure she was going all-in.

“I had conversations with myself when I was making this decision — I went through all of these different scenarios,” Demopoulos said. “‘What if you quit and you still win? What if you don’t quit and you still win?’

“I mean, I had been dancing all of these years, and I won quite a few fights, and the reason that I’m so freaking strong is because I’m always so exhausted, and I just f–ing do it anyways, man. There’s no quit in me, because I’ve got to do what I’ve got do.

“But to be able to rest and recover, that was life-changing for this camp. I thought about a lot of different things, but I also didn’t care. This is the time. I have to put this to the side because I’m going to make fighting happen.

“No matter what, I’m going to make this work. This is going to work. I was talking to myself positively every day encouraging this journey, and here we are.”

Demopoulos, who was on a minimum $12K/$12K contract for UFC 270, took home a $50K bonus for Performance of the Night.