Paige Michelle VanZant (born March 26, 1994) is an American mixed martial artist who competes in the Women's Strawweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). A professional competitor since 2012, VanZant was a fighter in Invicta FC before moving over to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As of August 31, 2016 she is ranked No. 8 in the UFC Strawweight division.
VanZant (whose birth given name is Paige Sletten) was born in Dundee, Oregon, and raised in Dayton, Oregon. Her parents owned a dance studio, and she was brought up dancing ballet, jazz, and hip hop for over 13 years. As a teen, she appeared in a mop commercial for Bissell. She was considered a tomboy while growing up, and loved the outdoors; her hobbies included riding dirt bikes and fishing. In high school, she was regularly bullied by a group of girls. She has noted this experience as one of the reasons she likes being a martial artist and having the ability to defend herself. She has modeled for Nike and Columbia Sportswear. Her father nicknamed her "12 Gauge" because of her love of shooting and hunting.
Mixed martial arts career
After VanZant moved with her family to Sparks, Nevada, she was looking for a dance studio when she came across UFC veteran Ken Shamrock's gym, where she began training in boxing and other martial arts. After winning an amateur fight at age 18, VanZant made her professional MMA debut on June 30, 2012, at UWF's Tournament of Warriors finale against Jordan Nicole Gaza in Corpus Christi, Texas, winning by split decision. On September 22, 2012, she faced Amber Stautzenberger at Premier Fight Series 2 and won via unanimous decision.
VanZant faced Tecia Torres at Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt. The event was held on January 5, 2013, at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. VanZant was dominated on the feet for much of the fight and lost to Torres via a unanimous decision.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
In December 2013, VanZant was announced as one of 11 women signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for its newly created Strawweight division. It was also announced that she would compete as a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter (UFC), a television reality series, as part of a tournament to crown the inaugural strawweight champion. However, on March 31, 2014, VanZant was turned away from the reality series because she was only 20 years old, and the minimum age to compete on it is 21 due to the presence of alcohol in the house.
In August 2014, the UFC announced that VanZant would face Kailin Curran on October 4, 2014, in Halifax at UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Saffiedine, but VanZant suffered a back injury and the bout was rescheduled for UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson. VanZant marked her UFC debut by defeating Curran by TKO in the third round, in a fight that would win Fight of the Night honors.
After defeating Kailin Curran, VanZant enjoyed an increase in popularity. In February 2015, she was signed to a sponsorship deal with Reebok. This became a source of controversy due to her having only one UFC fight at the time. UFC president Dana White responded that she received the Reebok deal because of her "it" factor and personality.
VanZant faced Felice Herrig on April 18, 2015, in Newark, New Jersey, at UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold. Following a competitive first round, VanZant eventually overwhelmed Herrig with her grappling, winning by unanimous decision.
VanZant faced Alex Chambers on September 5, 2015, at UFC 191. After controlling most of the fight with aggressive strikes and grappling, she won via armbar submission in the third round.
VanZant signed a new contract with UFC on September 17, 2015. VanZant was expected to face Joanne Calderwood on December 10, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 80. However, Calderwood was pulled from the fight in October and replaced by Rose Namajunas. VanZant lost the one-sided fight via submission in the fifth round.
Following her time on Dancing with the Stars, VanZant returned to the cage to face Bec Rawlings on August 27, 2016 at UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit. She won the fight via KO in the second round after landing a flying head kick and a flurry of follow up punches. The win earned VanZant her first Performance of the Night bonus award.
In her next bout, VanZant faced Michelle Waterson on December 17, 2016 in the main event at UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson. She lost the fight via technical submission due to a rear-naked choke in the first round.
VanZant typically attacks with aggressive grappling, then seeks to finish the fight with strikes. Her style includes ground-and-pound, dirty boxing, and a wide variety of clinch striking. While standing, she will often move the fight toward the fence and utilize knees, elbows, forearms, punches, and throws.
VanZant is noted for the constant pressure she applies while grappling. If an opponent escapes her clinch, she will usually look to close the distance again within moments. At UFC Fight Night 57, Kailin Curran struggled to establish range against VanZant. During their three-round bout, Felice Herrig was repeatedly held down by VanZant's grappling. The first fighter to defeat VanZant, Tecia Torres, largely avoided her clinch while attacking with strikes near the center of the cage. While fighting from a distance, she typically attacks with high kicks and punches.
In addition to her striking, VanZant has a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Dancing with the Stars
On March 8, 2016, VanZant was announced as one of the celebrities who would compete on season 22 of Dancing with the Stars. She partnered with professional dancer Mark Ballas. The couple reached the finals of the show and finished in second place behind model Nyle DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd.
|Week #||Dance/Song||Judges' score||Result|
|1||Foxtrot / "Ain't Got Far to Go"||7||7||7||No Elimination|
|21||Salsa / "Danza Kuduro"||8||8||8||Safe|
|3||Paso Doble / "300 Violin Orchestra"||8||7||8||Safe|
|4||Quickstep / "You've Got a Friend in Me"||9||9/92||9||Safe|
|53||Rumba / "Perfect"||8||8/74||8||No Elimination|
|6||Jazz / "Soul Bossa Nova"||9||10||9||Last to be called safe|
|7||Jive / "Proud Mary" |
Team Freestyle / "End of Time", "If I Were a Boy" & "Crazy in Love"
|8||Viennese Waltz / "Stone Cold" |
Team-up Dance (Paso Doble) / "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
|Trio Samba / "Hip Hip Chin Chin" |
Argentine Tango / "One Time"
|Last to be called safe|
|Salsa / "Fireball" |
Freestyle / "Over the Rainbow"
Salsa & Jive Fusion / "Little Bitty Pretty One"
1 For this week, VanZant performed with troupe member Alan Bersten due to Ballas suffering a back injury during rehearsals.
2 Score given by guest judge Zendaya.
3 For this week only, as part of "America's Switch Up", VanZant performed with Sasha Farber instead of Ballas. Ballas performed with Ginger Zee.
4 Score given by guest judge Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
5 Due to Inaba being the judge coaching VanZant's team during the team-up dance, the viewers scored the dance in her place with the averaged score being counted alongside the remaining judges.
Championships and accomplishments
- Ultimate Fighting Championship
- Fight of the Night (One time)
- Performance of the Night (One time)
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown|
|10 matches||7 wins||3 losses|
|Loss||7–3||Michelle Waterson||Technical Submission (rear-naked choke)||UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson||December 17, 2016||1||3:21||Sacramento, California, United States|
|Win||7–2||Bec Rawlings||KO (switch kick and punches)||UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit||August 27, 2016||2||0:17||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada||Performance of the Night. Knockout Of The Year Nominee|
|Loss||6–2||Rose Namajunas||Submission (rear-naked choke)||UFC Fight Night: Namajunas vs. VanZant||December 10, 2015||5||2:25||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Win||6–1||Alex Chambers||Submission (armbar)||UFC 191||September 5, 2015||3||1:01||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Win||5–1||Felice Herrig||Decision (unanimous)||UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold||April 18, 2015||3||5:00||Newark, New Jersey, United States|
|Win||4–1||Kailin Curran||TKO (punches)||UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson||November 22, 2014||3||2:54||Austin, Texas, United States||Fight of the Night.|
|Win||3–1||Courtney Himes||Technical Submission (rear-naked choke)||BCP - Cage Warriors 15||April 6, 2013||1||2:21||Grand Junction, Colorado, United States|
|Loss||2–1||Tecia Torres||Decision (unanimous)||Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt||January 5, 2013||3||5:00||Kansas City, Kansas, United States|
|Win||2–0||Amber Stautzenberger||Decision (unanimous)||PFS - Premier Fight Series 2||September 22, 2012||3||5:00||Fort Worth, Texas, United States|
|Win||1–0||Jordan Nicole Gaza||Decision (split)||UWF - Tournament of The Warriors Finale||June 30, 2012||3||5:00||Corpus Christi, Texas, United States|