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Paige VanZant thinks women in her division with 'masculine physiques' are on PEDs

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- The performance-enhancing drug problem in MMA doesn't stop with the men, according to Paige Van Zant.

The popular, ranked women's strawweight fighter believes there are women in her division using PEDs. And she's excited that the UFC's new anti-doping policy run by USADA will work to clean things up.

"I will say some of the girls in my weight class have very masculine physiques, and I don't know if you can get those naturally," VanZant said at a media lunch Monday in Downtown Los Angeles. "I'm not a nutritionist, though, so I don't really know. But I am happy that USADA is here and implementing the drug-testing policy."

VanZant wouldn't name any names or allude to who she thinks they are. But she believes they are out there. Not that it bothers her. "12 Gauge" said she doesn't let what other people do compromise her training and fighting.

"I think about those things, but also the whole thing doesn't affect me, so I just look at whoever my opponent is," VanZant said. "If the strawweight division changes, it doesn't matter as long as I keep continuing to win fights. Whatever my other opponents do, it has no affect on me."

VanZant meets Alex Chambers at UFC 191 on Saturday in Las Vegas. She's looking for a third straight win in the UFC and, at age 21, is one of the promotion's biggest up-and-coming stars on the women's side. VanZant (5-1), a former dancer and current CrossFit athlete, also prides herself on being clean of PEDs. She doesn't even use an IV to rehydrate, she said. USADA will be banning that practice for UFC fighters beginning in October.

"If you're relying on IVs, that's obviously going to be a problem," VanZant said. ... "Some changes are gonna have to be made. I think that's really going to be hard, because for the strawweights you can't go up since there's no 125-pound division in the UFC."

The Team Alpha Male fighter has taken some heat for the push UFC is giving her. VanZant is sponsored by Reebok, though she's only had six pro MMA fights, while UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, doesn't have an individual deal with the UFC's uniform partner. VanZant lets the criticism roll off her back, but she does admit that it's not always easy.

"I think people only hate what they love, what they can't be and what they don't understand," she said. "So it's one of the three.

"For me, I have too many positive things, too many amazing things in my life to care about how my opponents feel about me. Of course they're not gonna like me. We're gonna fight each other."

And VanZant won't even mind if said opponent is on steroids. She would be confident regardless.

"I just know what I'm capable of," she said.