American mixed martial artist Paige VanZant competed in Invicta FC before moving on to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight category. Since she prevailed in her first amateur contest at the age of 18, she has been engaged in professional combat. She acquired a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) at the age of 19, competing for four years in the strawweight division before recently switching to the flyweight division.
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Paige In addition to being raised in Dayton, Oregon, Michelle VanZant was born in Dundee, Oregon, on March 26, 1994. Her parents’ dance studio, where she spent more than 13 years learning ballet, jazz, and hip-hop dancing.
During her youth, she was referred to as a tomboy since she preferred outdoor pursuits to video games and social media time. Her father, who dubbed her “12 Gauge,” knew she enjoyed going hunting and fishing with him.
She used to play boxing with her older brother and other neighborhood boys as a younger sister, and she also played with other boys. At the age of eight, she acquired her first ATV. She also enjoyed dirt biking.
She performed as a kid actor before making her teen acting debut in a Bissell mop commercial. In high school, she competed on the varsity cheerleading squad.
She was one of the school’s shortest students, standing at just under 5 feet tall, and a group of girls started picking on her because of this. After her freshman year, her family moved to Sparks, Nevada, where she attended TMCC High School until graduating in 2012.
After relocating to Sparks, Paige VanZant discovered Ken Shamrock’s gym, The Lion’s Den, while seeking a dance studio. She began boxing at the age of 15 on her father’s advice, and then switched to mixed martial arts. In barely 50 seconds of her first amateur battle in April 2012, she achieved a submission. Her coach soon got her a call for a professional fight, which quickly gave her access to new options.
She made her professional MMA debut in June 2012 at the finals of the UWF’s “Tournament of Warriors” in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she defeated Jordan Nicole Gaza by a split decision. Three months later, at Premier Fight Series 2, she defeated Amber Stautzenberger in her second professional match by unanimous decision.
Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt, which took place on January 5, 2013, at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, was her next opponent, Tecia Torres. She was dominated by Torres on the feet the entire match but was defeated by a unanimous decision.
In December 2013, she received a call from UFC president Dana White unexpectedly, along with ten other women, offering her a contract for the organization’s newly established strawweight division.
She was also chosen to be a cast member on the reality television program “The Ultimate Fighter,” though she was later fired because she was underage.
Due to a back injury, Paige VanZant’s strawweight debut matchup with Kailin Curran at UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Saffiedine in Halifax was postponed from October 4 to November 22. She was awarded the “Fight of the Night” title and a $50,000 bonus for winning her first UFC fight in the third round by TKO.
Due to her sudden prominence, VanZant, who had previously worked as a model for Nike and Columbia Sportswear, was able to secure a sponsorship deal with Reebok in February 2015. She was criticized because she had only one UFC victory at the time, and Dana White defended her by saying that she was given the deal because of her “it” factor and attitude.
On April 18, 2015, in Newark, New Jersey, at UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold, she defeated Felice Herrig by unanimous decision to go to the next round of the UFC. She outclassed Alex Chambers on September 5 of that year with aggressive attacks and grappling, and in the third round, she submitted him with an armbar.
She was supposed to fight Joanne Calderwood on December 10 at UFC Fight Night 80, but Rose Namajunas ended up being her opponent and she was defeated by submission in the fifth round of a one-sided fight.
On August 27, 2016, at UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit, she made a powerful return to the ring against Bec Rawlings, winning the bout via second-round KO. She received her first “Performance of the Night” bonus award thanks to the battle.
On December 17, 2016, in the main event of UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson, she competed in her final strawweight division match against Michelle Waterson, which she lost by technical submission. In August 2017, she switched to the 125-pound flyweight class. On October 7, she will compete against Jessica Eye at UFC 216.
VanZant inked a four-bout contract in August 2020, apparently worth over $1 million, to compete solely in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
In the main event of BKFC: Knucklemania in Tampa, Florida, on February 5, 2021, VanZant made her promotional debut against Britain Hart. She was defeated by a score of unanimous decisions.
On July 23, 2021, VanZant competed against Rachael Ostovich, whom she had previously defeated in mixed martial arts at UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw.
She was defeated by a unanimous score in the fight. Following the defeat, VanZant expressed her desire to return to the MMA competition and stated her willingness to compete for Bellator MMA.
Professional Wrestling Career
VanZant made her debut in professional wrestling on September 15, 2021, when she competed for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on their Dynamite program alongside athletes from American Top Team. VanZant assaulted Chris Jericho on Rampage: Grand Slam the following week.
Dan Lambert of the American Top Team presented VanZant to Brandi Rhodes on the February 2, 2022 episode of Dynamite. VanZant later attacked Rhodes at Lambert’s command. Following the departure of Brandi and her husband, Cody from AEW, the angle between VanZant and Rhodes was dropped.
Tony Khan, the founder of AEW, tweeted on March 4 that VanZant would sign with the promotion. On the Dynamite episode on March 9, VanZant and her husband Austin Vanderford may be seen in the audience.
She interfered with Sammy Guevara’s ability to focus on the main event and helped Scorpio Sky win the TNT Championship by attacking Tay Conti at ringside. On top of Tay’s body, VanZant signed her AEW contract after the match.
VanZant would team up with Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky to fight Conti, Guevara, and Frankie Kazarian at Double or Nothing, it was revealed on the Rampage episode airing on May 27. VanZant’s squad won the competition.
Her Fighting Style
VanZant frequently initiates an aggressive grappling attack before attempting to end the fight with blows. She uses a combination of clinch striking, dirty boxing, and ground & pound. She frequently moves the battle toward the fence while standing and makes use of knees, elbows, forearms, punches, and throws.
VanZant is renowned for exerting consistent pressure while grappling. If an opponent breaks free of her clinch, she will typically try to close the gap again quickly. Kailin Curran struggled to get in range versus VanZant at UFC Fight Night 57. Felice Herrig was consistently pinned down by VanZant’s grappling throughout their three-round contest.
Tecia Torres, the first opponent to defeat VanZant, mostly avoided her clinch and attacked with strikes close to the center of the cage. She often uses high kicks and punches when fighting from a distance.
She attributes her ability to execute flexible and agile movements in her fights to her previous training as a dancer; she showed this when she used a jumping switch kick to knock out Bec Rawlings, earning her a “Performance of the Night” bonus. VanZant is proficient in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and holds a blue belt in it.
In March 2016, Paige VanZant teamed up with professional dancer Mark Ballas to compete in season 22 of “Dancing with the Stars.” They competed in the competition’s finals but were defeated by model Nyle DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd.
She competed in the celebrity cooking challenge on the Food Network TV show “Chopped” in March 2017 among 16 other famous people. She competed among athletes like LaMarr Woodley, Mariel Zagunis, and Dorothy Hamill, and she beat Hamill in the dessert round to win.
Her Personal Life
Due to her passion for shooting and hunting, her father dubbed her “12 Gauge.” She has posed for brands like Columbia Sportswear and Nike.
VanZant revealed in May 2018 that she had breast augmentation, stating: “I’m a girl and always wanted my own boobs. They never came so I bought them.”
A professional mixed martial artist, two-time NAIA All-American, and national champion wrestler, Austin Vanderford, was married to VanZant in September 2018. After dating for a year prior, Vanderford proposed to VanZant in January 2018.