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Paige VanZant reveals how leaving the UFC was her best career move: ‘I could retire tomorrow and be financially free’

BKFC

Paige VanZant is finally doing exactly what she wants — and she’s getting paid a lot of money to do it.

Following her exit from the UFC in 2020, the 27-year-old fighter inked a lucrative contract to join the roster at BKFC to start her bare-knuckle fighting career. Then, just recently, she signed a long-term deal with All Elite Wrestling to begin her journey in professional wrestling. VanZant also launched her own premium content website, of course, which has only added to the overall financial success she’s discovered in the two years since her exit from the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

“I could retire tomorrow and be financially free, and my kids would be pretty close to being financially free,” VanZant said on The Fighter vs. The Writer.

VanZant is quick to give credit to the UFC for helping to serve as a launching pad for her career, because that’s where she became a household name, through her fights with the promotion.

That being said, she also worked hard throughout her octagon run to ensure she was setting herself up for prosperity in the future, even if her biggest paydays wouldn’t happen until after her UFC contract ended.

“I’m fortunate enough, I did build my name up,” VanZant said. “I know how hard I worked in the UFC and I know how much dedication I had. I did all the appearances nobody else wanted to do. I traveled the world. Every weekend, I was in a different state doing appearances. I was fortunate enough, I did have that grind mentality to build my name up. I did social media, ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ really did what I could to build myself as a business and as a brand.

“So then when my contract ended with the UFC, I was able to go out there and be fortunate enough to sign with BKFC. They offered me a great contract. It opened the doors to all these other things that I wasn’t really able to do when I was with the UFC.”

Prior to the end of her UFC run, VanZant spoke out publicly about her concerns regarding the money she was making there and revealed that she was actually earning more from Instagram than her fight contracts.

Looking back now, VanZant holds no ill will whatsoever towards the UFC — if anything, she’s extremely complimentary about the promotion — but she knows leaving was by far the best move for her career.

“Of course, I love the UFC,” VanZant said. “I love the organization. There’s a reason they are as successful as they are. There’s a reason they were able to get to this level. They have a well-oiled machine and they’re very, very good at it.

“But I know in my heart that I will never fight for them again, just because they don’t pay enough. I don’t see the benefit of going back to the UFC. Right now, I’m fortunate enough, I built myself up to a specific place and I can take that and use it wherever I go.”

Having just started her professional wrestling training, with plans to debut in AEW later this year along with expectations to return to BKFC action, VanZant has plenty to keep her busy these days.

None of what’s happening right now in her career could prevent her from returning to MMA, but VanZant also acknowledged that fighting is her choice, and it’s no longer a necessity.

“I don’t have to do MMA,” VanZant said. “At this point in my life, I actually don’t have to do anything anymore. But I’m doing all of it because I love it. I’ve been so fortunate enough that I have one of the best management teams in the world.

“It took six months after I moved to Florida for them to make me a millionaire, and since then, it’s only fueled my passion that I can keep training and just keep fighting and I can do absolutely anything I want. They made it so I had the opportunity to just do what I want to do. I don’t have to put up with the un-fun things along the journey. I don’t have to say yes to everybody to scrape by.”

With her AEW contract signed and getting her first BKFC win still on her to-do list, VanZant can’t imagine things going any better, but MMA always remains an option for the future.

“[My management team] really changed my life so I could sit down and say, ‘OK, Paige, what do you want to do with your time and your life and your career?’” VanZant said. “I’m so fortunate having that management team on my side, and so now I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

“I want to fight for AEW. I want to fight for BKFC. Contract is open-ended so I could still do MMA at the same time. I love MMA and I know my door’s definitely not closed on MMA, but at the same time, my passion really is pro wrestling and bare-knuckle boxing right now.”

Busier than ever with all of her current commitments, VanZant doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

If anything, she’s only planning on adding more to her résumé in the coming years while also continuing to build the brand that has allowed her to become so successful.

“I am just getting started,” VanZant said. “I know I am. Even as successful as I’m sure people see me as, I still feel there’s things I could have started a lot sooner. There’s things that are about to start that haven’t yet, and I’m destined to work hard. I’m destined to be successful and I just feel like every day is a gift from God to just keep hustling. So you’ve got to use every minute of every day to just be as successful as possible. I’ve been very lucky.

“Of course, I don’t want to have it just be this huge negative, like me leaving the UFC was the change for my life. Yeah, that was one factor. Another factor was me moving to Florida, getting with my management team, First Round Management, Malki Kawa — it was all those kinds of things, [they’re] pieces of the puzzle that all happened at the same time. Yeah, the UFC doesn’t necessarily allow the contracts to benefit the fighters. It’s business. They want to benefit themselves. That’s how they become successful. I get how business works, but I’m in the Paige VanZant business, so I’m just trying to make as much money as possible while I can.”