Paige VanZant isn’t nearly finished with her bare-knuckle fighting career.
The former UFC star inked a four-fight deal with BKFC back in 2020 but also just recently announced her plans to crossover into professional wrestling after signing with All Elite Wrestling. While both endeavors will keep her plenty busy, VanZant told The Fighter vs. The Writer that she’s still very much a combat sports athlete with hopes that she’ll soon reach an agreement on an extension to stay with BKFC even longer.
“I’m still bare knuckle boxing,” VanZant said. “I’m still with BKFC. I’m about to sign a contract extension. Of course I didn’t have the greatest success right off the bat but that also fueled my fire even more. Training harder and I do see a lot of relationship between my training for BKFC and my training for pro wrestling.
“The great thing is there’s 24 hours in a day and I’m going to use every single hour of that to train for both.”
Despite an 0-2 start with BKFC, VanZant hasn’t lost an ounce of confidence that she made the right decision to test herself in bare-knuckle fighting after leaving the UFC.
Neither of her losses were necessarily bad performances and VanZant prefers to look at the experiences as growing pains and she expects much better returns when she competes again while headlining the first ever BKFC card in London on July 9.
“I’m committed 100 percent,” VanZant said. “I do know the last two fights that I had for them, they were extremely close, both of them.
“Looking at it from an athlete’s perspective I do know I lost to both of them. I know there was controversy some people saying I won. It was very close. I do see it as I had two losses but they were extremely close and I can see my boxing skill better from the first to the second [fight].”
Of course, VanZant heard plenty of criticism from the moment she put pen to paper on her contract with BKFC, especially considering the graphic brutality that often accompanies bare-knuckle matches.
VanZant says that she only used that as extra motivation and her experience with BKFC has been nothing but positive with hopes that the relationship will continue far beyond this year.
“I’m not done yet,” VanZant said. “I know people saw me going into it as a terrible career move and there was all the negativity and the shock of me signing with bare-knuckle boxing. Yeah, I did go 0-2. I need to come out there, I need to get some wins under my belt. Those losses even though losing is terrible, I just had so much fun. Both of those fights were so much fun. I never once thought about walking away.
“I would love to sign a contract extension with them. I just plan on keep going with it. I feel it’s the most brutal, raw form of fighting and I want to be a part of the show for the long run.”
As for her future in pro wrestling, VanZant just started her training under David Heath, who many longtime fans will recognize as Gangrel from his memorable run with World Wrestling Entertainment.
The commitment to pro wrestling isn’t easy but VanZant knows AEW will give her the time she needs to develop because her contract with them wasn’t just made for television.
“It’s a long term partnership for sure [with AEW],” VanZant said. “This is not something I’m doing it for I guess to check off my bucket list, just to say that I did it. I want to be a part of their show. I truly do. I love what AEW does.
“I had gone to a few shows and I was like this is cool. This is amazing. [American Top Team owner] Dan Lambert had brought me out just to check it out and I was like this is really cool. Then I had to jump in there and get his back on a few things and I was like I’m meant to be a part of this. It didn’t take long for us to convince AEW that I should be a part of their team.”
VanZant has fallen in love with the wrestling business rather quickly while also appreciating that AEW and BKFC both have her best interests at heart.
“I’ve spoken with AEW and BKFC and they’re willing to work together to make sure I have a successful career and really let me focus on each individual task at hand,” VanZant said.
“So I’ll probably have my match for pro wrestling and then I will be bare knuckle boxing this year as well.”