UFC women's strawweight contender Paige VanZant is riding high after her dominating unanimous decision victory over Felice Herrig at Saturday's UFC on FOX 15. This happened, however, despite the argument from some that the veteran Herrig would physically dominate the younger, inexperienced VanZant.
But as it would turn out, those expectations would prove to be wrong -- something VanZant does not appear to be particularly surprised by.
"Maybe she was stronger," VanZant said of Herrig at the event's post-fight press conference. "She obviously looks a lot stronger than me, but even when you're a black belt, when you're getting punched in the face, those things kind of go away. When you're in a fight, it doesn't matter what skill set you have, if you don't have the heart then, your strength and your attributes fall back."
VanZant did exactly that, landing a number of punches in multiple figures of what Herrig was able to score. She also positionally controlled Herrig as the fight went on, albeit after a few tense moments of having her back taken early in the fight. VanZant says the victory is sweet and helps her silence some of the doubters, but also shows there's room for growth.
"That was the plan," VanZant said of quieting skeptics. "Of course I wanted to go out there and get a dominant performance. Everyone wants to finish their fight right away. I'm really happy with my performance tonight. I still have a lot to work on. I'm very young in this sport."
As for the trash talk that came from Herrig before the fight, VanZant seems unaffected. Sure, it was nice to get a win over a person like that, but VanZant sees it as things some fighters do rather than a character flaw.
"For me, every win is satisfying. I just understand some competitors have to get in that mindset," she said. "They're about to go in and do a fight. Some people have to get in that mindset. You have to hate your opponent. I don't have to do that. It's like my birthday every time I walk out to the cage. This is what I love to do. I don't have to hate who I'm fighting."
More than that, however, is VanZant's pledge for the future. At her young age and proper surroundings, VanZant believes the sky is the limit. Specifically, though, she claims each time fans see her, it'll be a continued technical reinvention.
"Every single fight, I'm going to change," she noted. "I'm not technically the best yet, but I'm at the perfect camp for that."