UFC women’s strawweight Paige VanZant couldn’t be a member of The Ultimate Fighter 20 cast to determine the inaugural women’s 115-pound champion because of her age. With alcohol present in the fighter house, the 20-year-old wasn’t able to participate in the “A Champion Will Be Crowned” season.
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She was initially signed by the organization in December 2013 to be part of the reality series. Instead, she made her promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 57 against Kailin Curran on Saturday. While their fight didn’t make the FOX Sports 1 broadcast, it won Fight of the Night honors.
A $50,000 bonus in your UFC debut has to be the equivalent of hitting a grand slam in your first at bat in the majors. VanZant, who broke down in tears following her TKO win, was still in shock during the post-fight press conference.
“Going into it, I always get nervous before I perform,” said VanZant. “Once I walk out to the cage, all the nerves set in. I’m used to being under pressure. Luckily, I perform really well under pressure. And what a way to kick off my UFC debut with a bonus.
“I’m completely in awe still. I’m in shock,” she added.
“I definitely proved myself in this fight. I proved that I didn’t need to be on The Ultimate Fighter to make a name for myself. And I’m really excited to fight whoever comes out of the The Ultimate Fighter house as soon as possible,” said the Nevada native.
“There are a lot of girls in that house that I’d match myself up with. One of the standout fighters was Tecia Torres, and she’s my only loss. So I’m excited to maybe get that rematch with her or whoever comes out of The Ultimate Fighter house,” continued VanZant.
The 20-year-old prospect thinks, looking back on it, that not being able to be on the reality show benefited her.
“I think it’s been great for me. I found my new training camp and I’ve really been able to set myself on the tracks that I needed to be on to win my fights. I have a much better mindset going into the fights now. I feel like I’ve had the best training camp of my life. And I would have changed it for the world,” she said.
“It was bittersweet not being on The Ultimate Fighter. I was really fortunate that I was considered for such a great thing. But this ended up being the best thing for me.”