Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 252 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
After a nine-bout stint with the UFC, Paige VanZant is taking her talents to Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
ESPN was first to report VanZant’s new deal. The four-fight, exclusive contract is reportedly worth $1 million, with more incentives attached. She recently revealed that she earned more competing on “Dancing with the Stars” and promoting brands on Instagram than she did fighting for the UFC.
VanZant believes competing in bare knuckle boxing will establish her as a serious combat sports athlete and is targeting a November debut.
"It was an amazing contract, an amazing opportunity," VanZant told ESPN. "I also feel like it's not a move backwards for me. It's a lateral move to a new opportunity, a new challenge, a brand new sport. I really have sparked a brand new passion for it and especially for striking in general.
"And, on top of that, I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I'm just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to people that's not the way I see myself at all. This is a sport where people probably have the highest rate of getting cut open and having long-term scars is definitely something that I'm not even worried about for me. It's just the love of competition and I'm really excited to go out there and show off in such an amazing sport.”
According to a report from MMAFighting.com, VanZant turned down an offer from Bellator MMA, where her husband, Austin Vanderford, currently competes. VanZant told ESPN that she received offers from numerous MMA organizations.
"I talked to a lot of different promotions," VanZant said. "I actually had no idea that I would have so many come with such big offers. I knew I would get the big players in the game, like Bellator or One, but I actually had five or six huge, solid promotions that I had to decide on. For me, at this moment in my career, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship was the one that fit best.”
VanZant went 5-4 during her UFC tenure, a mark that includes a victory over BKFC champion Bec Rawlings in 2016. The 26-year-old, who recently moved her training to American Top Team, says she hasn’t ruled out a return to MMA down the road.
"I don't know that I am done with MMA," VanZant said. "I know momentarily I am. I still have a huge passion for MMA, and I just recently relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team. Obviously they are one of the best MMA gyms in the world. Right now, my sole focus is boxing, but in a few years I could go back to MMA or I could just be making so much doing this bare knuckle boxing that I don't do anything else.”