Paige VanZant has been one fight from free agency for over one year. A nagging arm injury has been the thing preventing her from finishing her current contract.
The veteran strawweight and flyweight contender first suffered a broken arm in her fight against Jessica-Rose Clark back in 2018. She finally returned a year later and picked up a submission win over Rachael Ostovich, but then suffered another arm fracture.
VanZant eventually underwent another surgery. She was scheduled to fight Amanda Ribas in March when she endured another break that set her back once again.
According to VanZant, the continued issues are related to a surgically implanted plate in her arm that was meant stabilize the bone when she first had surgery. But the plate is now doing more harm than good – she can’t seem to avoid additional fractures.
‘So the biggest problem is I need to get the plate out in my arm,” VanZant revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Tony Ferguson broke his ulna, too, and he had his plate taken out, so that’s why he hasn’t had any complications with it. I have a plate that pretty much runs from my wrist to my elbow, and each one of those has a screw hole, so I have seven screws in my arm.
“Each one of those screw holes is technically a hole in your bone, so they’re all weak points. Then at the front of your plate and at the end of your plate is a weak point, too. Because your bone flexes, and it bends whereas the plate doesn’t bend, your arm bends around the plate. Each time I’ve re-broken it, I’ve broken through a screw hole. I just need to get the plate taken out, so it’s just another surgery I have to look forward to.”
During her layoff, all VanZant has wanted to do was book a fight. But the continued problems with her arm injury have now kept her sidelined for the past 15 months. As discouraging as it might be to have another surgery, she knows it will be best for her long term success.
‘I was able to have a successful fight against Rachael Ostovich with plate in and then not hurt myself,” VanZant said. “Then I come back from that fight, and a week later I break my arm sparring. It’s just so unpredictable. I’m pretty much on the same page with the surgeons now.
“It was hard for me at first to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll have the surgery, let’s fix the break and then let’s plan on having a second surgery.’ It was hard to agree to all of that when I knew how long it was going to take me out of fighting. But ultimately it’s the right thing to do.”
While she will need another surgery before it’s all said and done, VanZant still plans to book another fight as soon as possible – and deal with her arm later.
“The timeline is fight one more time [and] I’ll be in contract negotiations at that point,” VanZant said. “I’ll be a free agent. Theoretically that could take a long time to go through that negotiation process. So it’s the perfect time to have one more arm surgery and heal it the right way.
“By the time negotiations are over, I’ll have a new contract. I’ll [have] a fight lined up. All of that will give me plenty of time to heal my arm correctly.”
VanZant said she definitely didn’t want to have another surgery, but given the diagnosis from her doctors, she knows this will allow her to avoid further complications from the broken arm.
“I think no matter what, if I have this plate in my arm, it’s going to be a weak point,” VanZant said. “It feels fine. Everything feels normal. I can train 100 percent. This last one, a dude threw a flying knee and I just blocked it wrong. It wasn’t his fault, wasn’t my fault, it was just a freak accident. It wasn’t even like it was a hard knee, but it broke through one of my screw holes. As long as I have the screws in my arm, it will be hard.”
As far as fighting again with the plate still embedded in her arm, VanZant isn’t too worried about that giving her problems. She fought the third round in her bout against Clark with the same broken arm, and she’s not afraid to do it again if necessary.
“Fingers crossed, I will not break it in the fight, but I will not spar looking forward to my next fight,” VanZant said. “I know I’ve been doing this long enough. I’ve been fighting and training since I was 15 years old, so 11 years. I know how to spar. I’m not going to forget how to fight.
“I do know I have the confidence [that] if I do break my arm in a fight again, I’m not going to quit. It’s definitely not going to take me out of the fight.”