Meet the 21-Year-Old Who Quit Modeling to Become a UFC Fighter

Paige VanZant may look like just the pretty girl next door, but the 21-year-old beauty is also a relentless up and coming UFC world title contender. Weighing in at 115 pounds, the 5’ 4” UFC championship contender has a 6-1 fighting record and is currently ranked 7th in the women’s strawweight division.

A native of Newberg, Oregon, VanZant grew up dancing and cheerleading before pursuing a career as a model and actress. She has modeled for athletic clothing brands including Nike and Columbia Sportswear.

While following her aspirations in modeling and acting, VanZant came across a local MMA gym class at UFC legend Ken Shamrock’s Lion’s Den in 2009. She told Sky Sports:

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“My dad was a huge UFC fan, and there was a gym near us. He convinced me to go and try… I was always a competitor, I did have a few amateur boxing matches.”

The rest was history as VanZant fell in love with the sport. She won her first amateur fight when she was 18 and her first pro fight in 2012.

Though she was initially turned away due to her young age at 20, VanZant had her first pro fight three years ago and went on to win three straight victories in the world’s biggest MMA organization. She told Skysports:

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“It means the world, I’m so grateful to be able to perform on the biggest platform. It’s true that every fight, at the moment, is my biggest ever but I’m excited to prove what I’m made of.”

VanZant’s UFC debut took place at UFC Fight Night in Austin, Texas, against Kailin Curran in November 2014. She caught the audience’s attention by putting on a “Fight of the Night” performance that earned her a $50,000 bonus — defeating her opponent in three rounds.

Now that she is 21, VanZant is eligible to be a contender for the women’s strawweight championship. She is the second-youngest female fighter in UFC.  

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The 21-year-old will headline her first show for UFC in her fourth fight against Rose Namjunas on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas.

She is one of the most highly requested fighters for interviews and appearances from outlets such as Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.

According to VanZant’s manager from MMA Inc., Mike Roberts, she is one of the most marketable athletes on the roster because of her undeniable appeal. He told Fox Sports:

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“The sky’s the limit for her. Obviously, she’s got to keep getting better as a fighter and improving what she’s putting in the work to make it happen. She has a unique ability that I think is different from a lot of other people — she connects with everybody.”

VanZant told Sky Sports:

“Stereotypically, when you think of a fighter, they don’t look like us.

“This sport should give girls a sense of empowerment that they can do whatever they want. I want to be a voice for people who don’t feel like they fit in. This is breaking barriers.”

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VanZant is breaking stereotypes and proving that she’s even tougher than she seems. She explained to Foxsports:

“There’s a lot of girls out there that can relate to me. They can look at me and see themselves a little bit. There’s a lot of girls out there that have a tougher side to them. I just think that people are really grown and attracted to that and that’s why people like to see me fight.”

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