Former UFC fighter Paige VanZant made a surprise move on Wednesday when she inked a deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship instead of Bellator MMA, as many had expected. The news was first reported by ESPN.
She said her new contract with BKF is a four-fight exclusive deal.
VanZant fought the final bout of her UFC contract on July 123, losing via a first-round armbar to Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. The bout was VanZant’s first fight in a year and a half because she had been dealing with several injuries.
Though VanZant was one of the UFC’s brightest stars when she first entered the Octagon, winning her first three bouts, she managed just a 2-4 record over the final six bouts of her tenure.
Moving over to BKFC, VanZant will forego mixed martial arts to focus on her boxing, which includes a move to American Top Team in Florida. She hopes to fight for BKFC as soon as November.
“It was an amazing contract, an amazing opportunity,” VanZant told ESPN. “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.
“And, on top of that, I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I’m just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to be people that’s not the way I see myself at all.”
VanZant, however, insists that she hasn’t necessarily made a permanent move away from MMA.
“I don’t know that I am done with MMA,” VanZant said. “I know momentarily I am. I still have a huge passion for MMA, and I just recently relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team. Obviously, they are one of the best MMA gyms in the world. 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.”