With 2.5 million Instagram followers, UFC veteran Paige VanZant definitely understands the power of social media when it comes to her brand and image.
Thanks to sponsorships and endorsements, she’s said she makes ‘way more money’ from her social media posts than she does fighting inside the octagon.
But lately, VanZant and husband Austin Vanderford have brought a whole new level of attention when they posted a series of nude photos, their naughty bits artfully concealed behind various objects.
According to VanZant, the idea came to her with a separate photo of her husband and a pair of barely-there shorts the Bellator welterweight was rocking that day.
“Austin and I had taken a video of himself, or a picture in the gym, and I had glanced over and I was like, ‘Were you naked out there?’ And he was just wearing really short shorts,” VanZant said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Cause he works out in really tiny shorts.
“And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have the best idea ever,’ and so we just kind of staged it where I was on the medicine ball and he had our double-edged bag covering his butt. Then it just kind of sparked from there because people liked them so much.”
VanZant has done scantily-clad photoshoots previously like her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. But Vanderford is pretty much a newb. That said, the 30-year-old welterweight contender definitely wasn’t shy when it came time to take the photos.
“For one, I started wrestling since I was five, so I’ve been wearing one of those singlets my entire life so there isn’t a whole lot that it doesn’t show,” Vanderford said with a laugh. “That’s one. Two, before I left Alaska to move here to the states to go to school and all that, my mom gave me one word of advice before I left. She said ‘Austin, the rest of the world isn’t like Alaska. You can’t just go outside and go pee wherever you want. You can’t show yourself off, so be careful.’ Fast forward like a year later, and I actually got a ticket for ‘scattering rubbish’ cause I had peed in a park or something. There might have been a few beers involved.
“I’ve just never been shy about that. I have fun. My wife sees me naked all day everyday anyway, so I thought the rest of the world deserves it, too.”
VanZant says really the idea was just for fun as the husband and wife duo try to make the most of the current lockdown where people are encouraged to stay at home at all times outside of essential travel.
“It’s not really a social media stunt – it’s not to get attention,” VanZant said. “I just think I want to spread the idea, we’ve been married for over a year and a half, and just to love your significant other, and have fun with them, and [show] how important it is to just make the most of the relationships that you have.
“We’re really just having a really good time and trying to spread love. We’re married, so I’m not embarrassed, I’m not shy about the way we live our life at all.”
While the photos were just for fun, VanZant does have an idea how to parlay the experience into an actual opportunity, thanks to a competition reality show she watches with her husband on a regular basis.
“I literally DM’d [Naked and Afraid] the other day,” VanZant revealed. “[I] said ‘hey my husband and I are professional fighters, we’re used to cutting weight’ and sent them my sales pitch on why we should be on Naked and Afraid. I really hope so.”