Does the name Paige VanZant sound familiar?
Perhaps you’ve heard of that name during ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, where VanZant danced her way into the hearts of those watching on the small screen.
Maybe you know her from what she actually does: an MMA fighter from the UFC.
The 22-year-old VanZant competes in the strawweight division, where fighters must make the weight of 106-115 pounds. She made her return from her time on the ABC show on August 27th’s UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Condit. Her opponent was the dangerous Bec Rawlings.
You wouldn’t know it when VanZant knocked out Rawlings with a leg kick to the head. She faked going left but scored right, catching Rawlings right on the temple. A few punches on the ground solidified VanZant’s victory.
VanZant is now 4-1 in the UFC, 7-2 record overall. She’s the #10 ranked fighter in her division.
VanZant is also one of the most notable mainstream faces in the UFC, which is what it sorely needs.
Ronda Rousey has been missing in action since losing her bantamweight title to Holly Holm last year. Jon Jones was slated to return at UFC 200 if not for a failed drug test.
Conor McGregor is the UFC’s biggest star, whose unpredictable element also cost him a UFC 200 fight.
The UFC needs a respectable star that they can build for years to come. Many have become divisive, especially he names listed above. That’s not mentioning the wasted potential they could have had in their fighters. Among those names include heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and light-heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson.
All three fighters contain different personalities. If built up right, they can become huge UFC guys for years to come. Unfortunately, the UFC’s focus still appears to be on Jones.
At least they’re building The Ultimate Fighter around men’s flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (well, kind of). The winner of that show will earn a title shot against arguably the most dominant champion in UFC today.
This brings us to VanZant, who is nowhere near getting a title shot anytime soon. However, her right attitude and her affinity for being an underdog stand out from contenders and champions.
If UFC can build VanZant right, then they can have a huge star on their hands. The strawweight division is loaded with many tough fighters, headlined by undefeated champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Keep in mind VanZant’s age as well as her demeanor. She has the potential to be champion someday. Granted, not anytime soon, but the level head she has can play a huge factor into championship glory.
It’s up to the people around her and the UFC to not let her go the way of Rousey and McGregor. We’ve already seen that and know where it leads.
With Paige VanZant, the UFC can have a fighter that not only they can be proud of, but we can all be proud of.
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