Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Paige VanZant has officially signed for BKFC. The bare-knuckle boxing promotion have signed her up to a longterm multi-million deal. She will now swap the Octagon for the squared-circle. This is an unexpected move because major MMA promotions like Bellator and ONE had offered her contracts.

But in the end, it was BKFC who won the day. Now they have the most marketable fighter on their roster that they’ve ever signed. This has always been one of VanZant’s biggest assets. The UFC initially signed her up because she was young, beautiful and had potential. This was also why Reebok gave her an individual sponsorship deal.

However, after a 5-4 record with the UFC, she decided to chase the free agency market. VanZant said that she wanted to be valued. However, the UFC wasn’t willing to offer her any more money. Now she hopes to answer her critics with a move to the bloody world of bare-knuckle boxing.

Mandatory Credit: Instagram

Cuts and Scars

The Oregon native says that she is excited to take off the gloves and get into a scrap. Fellow former UFC veteran Bethe Correia is her expected first opponent. Furthermore, she believes that this will prove that she’s a real fighter. Many fans have protested about it on social media because of the risks of cuts and scars. But she wants to prove that she’s not just an Instagram model. She told Ariel Helwani:

“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. It’s just the love of competition and I’m really excited to go out there and show off in such an amazing sport.”

“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.”

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

Amazing Opportunity

The deal comes as a surprise because most people expected her to move to Bellator. Her husband, Austin Vanderford is an unbeaten fighter on Scott Coker’s roster. She has also flirted with the promotion before when attending their events. However, in the end, the money that BKFC offered was too good to turn down. She also claims that it’s not a step-down.

“It was an amazing contract, an amazing opportunity,” VanZant said of her BKFC deal. “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.

We’ll see what she thinks when she’s fighting in casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, or the depths of Wyoming.
Mandatory Credit: Instagram

Best Fit

VanZant massively raised her profile with an appearance on Dancing With the Stars. She wants to capitalize on her fame in a way that the UFC wouldn’t let her. It will be interesting to see how her body holds up to the physical demands of the bare-knuckle game. She has a history of broken arms so this could be something to watch.

“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 and 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. At this moment in my career, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship was the one that fit best.”

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