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Jessica-Rose Clark: Paige VanZant fans are ‘like a cult’

When Jessica-Rose Clark signed on to fight Paige VanZant, she assumed it would be a one-on-one battle. What she didn’t realize is that a legion of VanZant supporters would soon be coming after her.

Clark has had a successful UFC run so far, knocking off fellow Australian Bec Rawlings by split decision as a short-notice replacement last November, and following that up with a unanimous decision win over VanZant just two months later at UFC St. Louis. Afterwards, it was revealed that VanZant had broken her arm during the bout and that injury dominated much of the post-fight narrative.

The injury was not obvious to Clark at first, but the VanZant faithful made sure to give her an earful on social media later on.

“It’s like a cult, it’s insane,” Clark said on The MMA Hour when asked about her opponent’s following. “I’ve never had hate messages before ever. Ever. Even when I used to get real drunk and talk trash on Twitter all the time and no one would even send me trash messages then. But since this fight, I get so much hate. People comment on everything, people send me personal messages.

“Just that I’m a s**t fighter and that if we rematch things would go differently and that the only reason I won was because she broke her arm and blah blah blah blah blah. It’s just the same thing over and over again.”

Clark had to be somewhat prepared for the backlash given that VanZant is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC both due to her in-cage exploits and her crossover appeal, as evidenced by a run on the reality competition show Dancing with the Stars in 2016. Much of the pre-fight hype was centered around this being VanZant’s first UFC fight at 125 pounds.

That meant Clark was often overlooked, something that didn’t bother her all that much.

“I don’t really care,” Clark said. “A lot of people were talking about that, (Clark’s manager) Danny (Rubenstein) has spoken about it. It was a little bit upsetting, but I kind of already knew that was gonna happen. She’s a bigger deal, she’s a bigger name than I am and her fans are crazy and I always knew that kind of no matter how it went I was going to get overshadowed a little bit.”

A little more shine should be headed Clark’s way now that she’s improved to 2-0 inside the Octagon. Clark said she bears no ill will towards VanZant for the circumstances surrounding their encounter. If anything, she’s indifferent towards “12 Gauge” and other than the 15 minutes they spent battling it out, there hasn’t been much interaction between the two of them.

However, there was one awkward moment that stands out in Clark’s mind.

“She came up to me when we were in the cage and she’s like, ‘Oh, I broke my arm on your head.’” Clark said, “I’m like, ‘Okay. Cool. Thanks.’ And that was it. I don’t know, what do you say to that? Sorry!”

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