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Coach explains why he let Paige VanZant fight with a broken arm at UFC St. Louis

MMA: UFC Fight Night-St. Louis-VanZant vs Clark
Paige VanZant injured her arm throwing a spinning back fist against Jessica-Rose Clark.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Paige VanZant won’t forget her UFC St. Louis fight with Jessica Rose-Clark any time soon.

VanZant suffered the first decision loss of her UFC career on Sunday night, but has gained a lot of respect from the MMA community after revealing that she suffered an arm fracture in the second round.

“12 Gauge” kept fighting despite the injury, and even escaped a submission attempt later in the second round, but lost the decision in the end.

VanZant informed her coach and corner Fabiano Scherner before the third round that she was injured, and Scherner spoke with MMA Fighting to explain why he didn’t advise her to stop the fight.

“I was asking her to stay away from the clinch and keep the distance to use her boxing and kickboxing, and she said, ‘My arm is broken,’” Scherner said. “She wasn’t feeling any pain, so I thought it could be a fissure, that sometimes hurts as much as a fracture. She said she fractured it in the first round, but she didn’t remember that the spinning back fist was in the second round.

“Everything that happened in the second round led me to believe that it wasn’t a serious injury because the way she continued fighting, you couldn’t notice it. I went back to the corner and asked the other coaches if they thought it was really broken, and they couldn’t give me a concrete answer. I kept telling her to hit with the right hand, and when I saw that she wasn’t throwing punches, I knew it was more serious than I thought.

“It made sense later why she wasn’t defended the triangle attempt the way we trained. We even trained that defense earlier that day, but finding out about the fracture made sense after all.”

After noticing that VanZant wasn’t throwing right hands in the third, Scherner still decided against throwing in the towel.

“I let the fight play out because at any moment she… She wasn’t using her right hand, but I was looking at her face and she didn’t appear to be in pain or anything like that, so I thought it was serious but that she could continue,” he said. “I didn’t think about throwing in the towel. We spoke about it after the fight and I saw the X-ray, I apologized to her for making that call, and she said, ‘It was the right call because I wanted to go back and continue fighting. I would be disappointed if you had stopped the fight.’ I think it was the right call because she really wanted to go back.

”I didn’t ask her if she wanted to continue or not because she would lose confidence in the fight,” he adds. “I want to make clear that it was my decision to let the fight continue, and I would take all the responsibility if something worse had happened. But what matters to me is her opinion about it, and she was happy with my decision. She thought it was the right thing, and that’s what matters to me.”

VanZant is expected to visit an orthopedist in Portland to check if she has any other arm injuries and decide if she needs to have surgery.

“She’s young and will recover quickly,” Scherner said, “but it’s not about recovering quickly, but doing the right procedure so she doesn’t have any issues later in her career.”

The unanimous decision defeat dropped VanZant’s MMA record to 7-4, a 4-3 run since joining the UFC in 2014, but her coach believes that she has gained more respect from fans after fighting with such a serious injury.

“If someone doubted why she was in the UFC, it’s answered now,” Scherner said. “She’s there to fight. I don’t remember anyone else in UFC history, maybe she’s the first fighter to fight through a broken arm. I’ve seen broken noses, broken hands, broken wrists, but a broken arm like that, I think she’s the first. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t see anyone else fighting the way she fought with that injury.”

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