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Paige VanZant grateful for Ronda Rousey comparisons, 'but I have a long way' to go

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Esther Lin photo

When Paige VanZant won via armbar Saturday night, she had to know the Ronda Rousey questions were coming.

The 21-year-old VanZant, who is clearly being groomed for stardom by the UFC, stopped Alex Chambers with Rousey's signature move at 1:01 of the third round in the strawweight main-card opener at UFC 191 in Las Vegas.

After improving to 3-0 in the UFC, VanZant (6-1) was asked at the post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand about the comparisons to the UFC's biggest mainstream star.

VanZant said that while she's flattered by the comparisons, she knows she still has quite a bit of road to travel.

"It's much of a compliment for people to even say that, and they're huge shoes to fill, but I have a long way before I can make that comparison," VanZant said. "But, I'm thankful that people see that. I definitely want to follow in her footsteps. She's opened great doors for women in all athletics, and especially the UFC and MMA."

VanZant is one of the handful of UFC fighters who have individual endorsement contracts with Reebok, a small group which also includes Rousey. VanZant admits to being shy around Rousey when they met at a recent Reebok photo shoot.

"When I first met her, I was nervous, I was like ‘she's Ronda Rousey,' at a Reebok photo shoot," PVZ said. "I saw her walk in and she turned around and shook my hand and gave me a compliment on my last fight. I didn't really know what else to say other than "hey.'"

UFC president Dana White has plenty to say about VanZant, believing she has plenty of the tools needed to succeed.

"She has all the attributes of a little rock star," White said. "She's got a great personality, she's absolutely relentless when she fights, she moves forward, she puts Mighty Mouse-type pressure on fighters. Yesterday she was the most searched fighter on UFC.com and people love her."