Paige VanZant may have come up short in her bare-knuckle fighting debut at BKFC: KnuckleMania, but that doesn’t mean her first fight with the promotion wasn’t a success.
According to BKFC president David Feldman, the pay-per-view broadcast for the card featuring VanZant in the main event against Britain Hart delivered in every way possible for the company. Perhaps even more important, Feldman says that VanZant proved she belongs in bare-knuckle competition, especially after she continued to improve with each passing round with her best performance coming in the final two minutes.
“The main event, we invested a lot into Paige VanZant and she showed up and fought really, really well,” Feldman told MMA Fighting. “I think that we can build upon that.
“[The pay-per-view] did good for us. It’s going to hit six figures. I don’t know where that’s going to end up but that’s a pretty good number for us right now for where we are. That’s a good number. It was a good event for us. It was profitable. Everything went very, very well for us. So all around it was just a very, very good ending for us.”
After completing her contract with the UFC this past summer, VanZant inked a lucrative four-fight deal with BKFC with many wondering how she would adapt to bare-knuckle fighting.
While VanZant started slow in her five-round fight against Hart, she began understanding the nuances involved with the sport as she spent more time in the ring and Feldman believes that’s the necessary sign that she’s ready for more.
“I thought she did good,” Feldman said. “Everybody thinks that they can fight bare knuckle until they fight bare knuckle at the beginning. They get in there and it’s different. It’s a lot different for them.
“I think it just took her a little bit of time to adapt and once she adapted, that’s what I was happy about. Once she adapted, she looked phenomenal. She came on strong at the end. She put on a great performance.”
Following an emotional loss, VanZant darted out of the ring before she could be interviewed but just days later she admitted that was mostly based around the disappointment in her performance.
In the aftermath of the fight, VanZant added that she had already reached out to BKFC about scheduling her next fight and it appears Feldman is ready to pull the trigger.
“I can confidently say Paige VanZant absolutely will be back with us here in early to mid-summer,” Feldman revealed. “100 percent. We are 100 percent in the Paige VanZant business. We like being in that business. She delivered for us on every aspect we needed and finished the fight strong so that was very important for us. Had she started the fight fast and not finished strong and went a whole different direction, it could be a different conversation but she finished strong and showed the heart she had and that she could adapt to this sport and she did. We’re happy of the performance.
“Obviously, she wanted to come out on top but look at this stage we have a chance where we can use Paige VanZant again in another fight and try to build her in the sport still and we were able to, if you will, give birth to a new start now. Britain Hart, her performance and her post fight interview and everything else about her, I think we can build our own star now with her.”
Feldman says the fire he’s seen stoked in VanZant before and after the fight has convinced him the promotion made the right call investing in her for the future.
Despite the loss, Feldman promises his faith in VanZant hasn’t been shaken one bit and he’s excited to see how she does in her second fight now that she knows what it’s like to engage in a true bare-knuckle battle.
“Some people looked at me crazy ‘you’re paying her too much, you’re doing this, you’re doing that.’ I said look I don’t know everything but I know what I’m doing on this stuff and she delivered,” Feldman said. “She delivered on every aspect that we needed her to deliver on. She was worth everything that we gave her and it’s a great partnership. She did everything we wanted her to do and we did everything she wanted us to do. We definitely have a win-win relationship.
“I said in all my interviews and I said to you, I really take my hat off to her because she didn’t have to do this. Now I take my hat off to her even more because she definitely doesn’t have to do this again. She’s doing it and she really wants to prove herself and that’s the kind of person that I wanted to be in business with, the kind of person I have a lot of respect for. So I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do. I think she’s going to adapt a lot more. I think she’s really going to take a step up in her next fight.”
While Feldman wasn’t quite ready to announce VanZant’s next fight, he expects to have a deal done any day now with high expectations for her return to action.
“Pretty sure we have the opponent,” Feldman teased. “We’re just dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on this one. It’s another well-known name and I think the public is really going to get behind this one. I think it’s going to be a really competitive fight.”