Paige VanZant is an American mixed martial artist who previously competed in Invicta FC and now competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight category. She has been fighting professionally since she was 18 years old, when she won her first amateur battle. She got signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) at the age of 19 and competed in the strawweight division for four years before recently shifting to the flyweight division. She was a tomboy with a fighting spirit who survived bullying as a teenager and went on to study mixed martial arts and obtain a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She’s recognized for her ferocious grappling attacks and her ability to finish fights with blows. She applies continual pressure to her opponent and frequently employs ground-and-pound, dirty boxing, and a variety of clinch striking techniques. Nike, Reebok, and Columbia Sportswear have all used her as a model. She is a trained dancer who competed on the celebrity dance reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ where she placed second. She beat off a slew of other athletes to win the celebrity cooking program ‘Chopped.’
Childhood and Early Years
Michelle VanZant was born in Dundee, Oregon, on March 26, 1994, and raised in Dayton, Oregon. Her parents’ dance studio was where she learnt ballet, jazz, and hip hop dancing for nearly 13 years. During her childhood, she was known as a tomboy who preferred outdoor activities to electronic games and social media. Her father gave her the moniker ’12 Gauge’ since she enjoyed fishing and hunting with him.
She used to play boxing with her older brother and other guys in the neighborhood when she was the younger of two children. She was also interested in dirt biking and purchased her first ATV when she was eight years old. She worked as a child actor and, as a teenager, appeared in a Bissell mop commercial. In high school, she was a member of the varsity cheerleading squad. She was one of the shortest pupils in school, standing just approximately 5 feet tall, and she was bullied by a group of girls. After her freshman year, her family relocated to Sparks, Nevada, where she attended TMCC High School and graduated in 2012.
Career in Mixed Martial Arts
Paige VanZant discovered The Lion’s Den, a gym managed by UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, when seeking for a dance studio after moving to Sparks. She began boxing at the age of 15 on her father’s advice and eventually moved on to mixed martial arts. In April 2012, she won her first amateur fight via submission in under 50 seconds. This provided her with fresh opportunities almost immediately, as her coach got her a call for a pro bout.
She made her professional MMA debut in June 2012 at the UWF’s ‘Tournament of Warriors’ conclusion in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she won a split decision over Jordan Nicole Gaza. She won her second pro fight against Amber Stautzenberger at Premier Fight Series 2 three months later by unanimous decision. On January 5, 2013, she faced Tecia Torres at Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. She was dominated on the feet throughout the fight, but she was defeated by Torres in a unanimous decision.
In December 2013, she received an unexpected call from UFC president Dana White, who offered her a contract for the newly created strawweight division among ten other women. She was also cast as a member of the reality television show ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ though she was eventually fired since she was under the age of 21.
Paige VanZant was supposed to fight Kailin Curran at strawweight on October 4, 2014 in Halifax at UFC Bout Night: MacDonald vs. Saffiedine, however her back injury forced her to reschedule the fight until November 22.
She won her first UFC fight by TKO in the third round, earning ‘Fight of the Night’ honors and a $50,000 prize.
Thanks to her current celebrity, VanZant, who previously modeled for Nike and Columbia Sportswear, secured a sponsorship deal with Reebok in February 2015. With only one UFC bout under her belt at the time, she was a target of criticism, prompting Dana White to defend her, claiming that she was hired because of her “it” factor and attitude.
On April 18, 2015, in Newark, New Jersey, she won her next UFC fight against Felice Herrig by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold. She overpowered Alex Chambers with powerful blows and grappling on September 5 of that year, winning by armbar submission in the third round. She was supposed to fight Joanne Calderwood at UFC Fight Night 80 on December 10, 2015, but instead met Rose Namajunas and lost by submission in the fifth round in a one-sided fight.
On August 27, 2016, at UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit, she made a strong comeback to the cage against Bec Rawlings, winning the bout by KO in the second round. For the first time, she received the ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus award during the fight.
She fought Michelle Waterson for the final time in the strawweight division on December 17, 2016, in the main event of UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson, which she lost by technical submission. In August 2017, she made the transition to the 125-pound flyweight category, where she will battle Jessica Eye at UFC 216 on October 7.
Appearances on Television
In March 2016, Paige VanZant teamed up with professional dancer Mark Ballas to compete on season 22 of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ The couple made it to the show’s finals, but were defeated by model Nyle DiMarco and his companion Peta Murgatroyd.
She was one of 16 celebrities who competed in the celebrity cooking challenge on the Food Network TV show ‘Chopped’ in March 2017. She won by edging out Dorothy Hamill in the dessert round, competing against athletes such as LaMarr Woodley, Mariel Zagunis, and Dorothy Hamill.
Achievements & Awards
Paige VanZant, just 20 years old, defeated Kailin Curran in her first UFC bout in 2014. She was one of the youngest fighters to win the prestigious ‘Fight of the Night’ award. After defeating Bec Rawlings via KO in August 2016, she received her first ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus award. She was placed No. 8 on the ‘Strawweight MMA Fighter in the World’ list the same year. In 2016, she finished second on the 22nd season of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ partnering with professional dancer Mark Ballas. She won the celebrity food competition show ‘Chopped’ in March 2017.
Personal History and Legacy
She relocated to Sacramento in late 2013 to train with Team Alpha Male, one of the best gyms on the West Coast. Even though she has not officially left the squad, she is no longer a full-timer there as of 2017. She has recently purchased a home in her home state of Oregon.
Estimated Net Worth
Paige VanZant is one of the wealthiest MMA fighters and one of the most popular. Paige VanZant’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
Paige VanZant didn’t start MMA fighting to battle bullying, but it did eventually help her gain confidence. She also admitted that being bullied reawakened her fighting instinct and inspired her to pursue a career as a boxer.