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Paige VanZant after loss: ‘I will be back and I’m gonna have the belt one day’

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Paige VanZant Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If Paige VanZant’s confidence was shaken by her loss, she certainly didn’t show it.

The popular women’s strawweight star fell to Michelle Waterson by first-round submission Saturday in the main event of UFC on FOX 22 in Sacramento. But after the fight, at the post-fight press conference, VanZant seemed no worse for wear. At least emotionally.

When a reporter asked the 22-year-old if the push came too early for her, VanZant was defiant.

“I was meant for the spotlight and I’m gonna continue to be in the spotlight,” PVZ said. “And I will be back and I’m gonna have the belt one day. I’m 22 years old. I have a long time.”

VanZant (7-3) has already accomplished a lot for her age in the UFC, compiling a 4-2 record and a high ranking. She’s also become one of the faces of the up-and-coming, 115-pound division. VanZant was the ‘A’-side of this main event Saturday night and has become a crossover talent, gaining acclaim on “Dancing With The Stars” and getting pitched movie offers.

For those pundits criticizing her for splitting time between MMA and the entertainment industry, don’t expect that to stop any time soon.

“I feel my opportunities are endless,” VanZant said. “I’m definitely gonna be fighting for the UFC for a long time. I’m very young; no injuries. So I’m gonna get back into it. But of course if other things come up, I’m gonna pursue those as well. I have a lot of passions in the world and I’m not gonna limit myself to one thing.”

It’s hard to blame her, since she got paid well into the six figures to compete on “Dancing With The Stars” and there are probably more pay days on the way — perhaps bigger ones than await her in the UFC. There could be something next up in the entertainment world queued up for her next, too, VanZant said.

“I have a lot of big things working outside of fighting, so I’m gonna pursue those for a little while,” VanZant said. “I definitely need a vacation, so I’m planning that right now. And then straight back to work, back in the gym getting ready for my last fight.”

Don’t tell “12 Gauge” that she won’t be able to juggle all of these things, either.

“Obviously, I took a break for ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and I came back and I knocked somebody out (Bec Rawlings), so I’m very good at balancing my outside factors,” VanZant said. “I have the best team in the world. I’m very smart. I could have done anything I wanted to and I chose to fight. And I’m gonna continue to balance my schedule. I got caught. I’m not gonna overthink it. I need to work on my jiu-jitsu and that’s it.”

The one thing VanZant did learn, she said, was that she needs to brush up on her ground game. Waterson was able to take her down with a throw, get her back, and cinch in a choke in relatively short order.

“I got caught,” VanZant said. “I’m not gonna overthink it. I need to work on my jiu-jitsu and that’s it.”