They may get punched in the face for a living and be tough as nails, but some of the female mixed martial art’s most popular stars also scrub up incredibly well outside of the cage.
In this article, we’ll prove it by recalling 10 of the sexiest video shoots ever undertaken by WMMA stars, showing that they can still retain their femininity despite the trials and tribulations of competing in one of the world’s toughest sports.
Over the years a number of female UFC stars have been picked to appear on Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, and perhaps the only surprise about Paige VanZant being chosen this year was that she hadn’t already been asked before now.
PVZ is no stranger to being in front of the camera as before she was a fighter she had been a model in addition to appearing in TV commercials, cheerleading, and dancing.
That latter talent would also lead her to take time off from the UFC to appear in ‘Dancing With The Stars’ back in 2016, ultimately finishing in 2nd place.
Despite her previous experience modeling for the likes of Nike, Reebok, and Columbia Sportswear, VanZant admitted that her shoot for SI took a bit of getting used to due to the skimpy bikini’s she has to wear.
However, she’s clearly honored to have been given the opportunity and having recently rebroken an arm that kept her out for most of 2018, it will help keep the popular 24-year-old star in the spotlight during her recovery.
“I feel like when you’re in Sports Illustrated, that means you make it,” VanZant said in a video interview on location at her photo shoot in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. “So it’s a really big deal. I’m mostly excited for people to see this side of me.”
While she was still just a rising star armbarring her way to the top as Strikeforce’s bantamweight champion in 2012, Ronda Rousey set fan’s pulses racing by agreeing to appear nude in the annual ‘Body Issue’ of ESPN Magazine.
Rousey was one of 27 athletes who posed for the feature, but was one of only 6 who were chosen to have their own cover version alongside the likes of NFL star Rob Gronkowski, The Knicks Tyson Chandler and tennis player Daniela Hantuchova.
Rousey explained that she had agreed to appear nude after discovering that a former boyfriend, referred to her only as ‘Snappers McCreepy,’ had taken pictures of her without her consent, leaving her concerned that he may have been poised to release them online.
“If there’s naked pictures out there, I’m going to go take naked pictures myself and I’m going to put it out there on my terms,” Rousey said of the ESPN shoot.
Apparently the shoot went well because, in 2016, Rousey then agreed to essentially go nude for Sports Illustrated’s 2016 Swimsuit Edition, with the catch being that she’s been wearing a body paint bikini.
Russian fighter Anastasia Yankova may have been blessed with the looks of a model, but she has been a martial artist since she was 6-years-old.
However, the Bellator fighter has used both assets to her advantage in her adult life, juggling modeling work while at the same time compiling a 5-1 MMA record to date.
At one stage Yankova admitted that her out-of-the-cage commitments, which also included TV hosting gigs in her native Russia, left her with little time to rest and recuperate from her MMA training, but she’s since relocated to the AKA gym in Thailand, run by her boyfriend and former UFC fighter Mick Swick, which has allowed her to dedicate more time to her fight career.
However, as this 2018 photoshoot for Savage Life from Phucket in Thailand reveals, she’s still turning heads as a model too, and she has over 200,000 followers on Instagram who eagerly await her latest pictures.
With a 20-2 MMA record including a brief two-fight stint in the UFC, Rin Nakai is a well-established fighter, but she’s just as well known for her sexy, but somewhat bizarre videos.
Nakai has posted videos of herself dressed in all kinds of different skimpy outfits while doing everyday activities like working out and cooking, and it’s certainly generated a lot of interest in her both in her native Japan and further afield.
“I want not just MMA fans, but ordinary people to watch my videos,” Nakai once told FOX Sports, while insisting that it had been her decision to make them. “My interest is that people who don’t have any idea about MMA watch my videos and might start to watch MMA and the UFC.”
Felice Herrig has always appeared to be from the school of thought that, ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ so she didn’t hesitate in agreeing to do a sexy cover photoshoot for Fitness Gurls magazine in 2014.
In fact, Herrig even put up behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot as it was happening live on Periscope.
This was nothing new for Herrig as she’s known for posting up pictures on social media that leave little to the imagination, has flashed her bare bottom on camera to a magician before, and even once dropped her towel while weighing in at UFC 229.
“I play up the sexy side, but I’m not playing,” Herrig told MMAMania. “I’m being me. I’m not doing anything I’m uncomfortable with.”
Given that she goes by the name of ‘The Karate Hottie’, perhaps it’s not surprising that UFC star Michelle Waterson was given the chance to feature in ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’ in 2017.
While she did modeling before MMA, Waterson is also known to be one of the few fighters who has managed to juggle her fight career while also being a mother to her young daughter.
Waterson admitted to being a little “scared” to do a nude photo shoot for ESPN, but at the same time, she also had a healthy, empowered attitude towards it.
“My stretch marks are battle wounds from my labor and growing this beautiful human being inside of me and the same thing with my cauliflower ears and my nose breaks.
“These are all things that tell a story. A mother, a fighter, a woman – strong, but feminine, I think my body portrays that.”
Mackenzie Dern is considered on the best female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners of her generation and has also created a stir in the MMA world too, going 7-0 in her pro-career to date.
Dern has also turned heads throughout her martial arts career for her looks too, and in fact, her likeness was used to help create the Sara Ryder character in the video game Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017.
Fans of the 25-year-old star are unlikely to be seeing her modeling again in the near future though as she recently announced that she is pregnant, though she’s vowed to return to fighting after she welcomes her first child into the world later this year.
When the Combat Lifestyle interview and video shoot above were taken back in 2013, Jessica Penne was fighting for the all-female Invicta FC promotion, where she once held the atom weight title.
At the time the chance to do something other than fighting was clearly a welcome change for the fighter.
“I spend most of my time with my hair in a ponytail and gym clothes, so it’s kinda cool to do something else,” Penne told photographer Tracy Lee prior to their photoshoot at Newport Beach in California.
Despite her reluctance at the time to entertain the possibility of joining the UFC, Penne would in fact make her way into the promotion via The Ultimate Fighter season 20 the following year.
Penne would later go on to fight for the UFC women’s strawweight title against Joanna Jedrzeczjyk in 2015.
Valentina Shevchenko is truly multi-talented, being not only the UFC’s flyweight champion, but also a dancer, an artist, and a gun expert.
She also models too, and ‘Bullet’ has featured in a number of photoshoots from exotic locations over the years, such as the one shown above for SoHo Peru magazine in 2014.
While she’s originally from Kyrgyzstan, Shevchenko actually emigrated to Peru several years ago and has even proudly worn the Peruvian flag into the Octagon.
Before her MMA career, Alexandra Albu was a professional fitness model and competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter who won first place in the Moscow Open Championships.
To this day the cross-fit enthusiast still posts regular videos showing off her toned physique during her intense workouts.
However, now her focus is more on her future as a fighter as she looks to build on her current 2-1 record in the UFC so far.