Childhood & Early Life
Paige Michelle VanZant was born March 26, 1994, in Dundee, Oregon, and was raised in Dayton, Oregon. She learned ballet, jazz, and hip hop dancing for over 13 years in the dance studio owned by her parents.
Known as a tomboy during her childhood, she was more interested in outdoor activities than playing video games or spending time on social media. She loved to go fishing and hunting with her father, who gave her the nickname, ‘12 Gauge’.
The younger of two children, she used to play boxing with her older brother, as well as other boys in the neighborhood. She was also interested in dirt biking and got her first ATV at the age of 8.
She worked as a child actor and appeared in a mop commercial for Bissell as a teenager. She was part of the varsity cheerleading team while in high school.
At only about 5 feet height, she was one of the shortest kids in school and became the target of bullying by a group of girls. Her family relocated to Sparks, Nevada after her freshman year, following which she attended TMCC High School and graduated from there in 2012.
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Mixed Martial Arts Career
After moving to Sparks, while looking for a dance studio, Paige VanZant came across The Lion’s Den, the gym run by UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. Following her father’s suggestion, she started boxing at the age of 15 and later moved on to mixed martial arts.
In her first amateur fight in April 2012, she scored a submission in just 50 seconds. This immediately opened up new opportunities for her, as her coach got her a call for a pro fight.
In June 2012, she made her professional MMA debut at UWF's ‘Tournament of Warriors’ finale in Corpus Christi, Texas, in which she won against Jordan Nicole Gaza by split decision. Three months later, she won her second pro fight against Amber Stautzenberger at Premier Fight Series 2 via unanimous decision.
She next faced Tecia Torres at Invicta FC 4: Esparza vs. Hyatt on January 5, 2013, at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Dominated on the feet throughout the fight, she lost her first pro fight to Torres via a unanimous decision.
She got a surprise call from UFC president Dana White in December 2013 and was offered a contract for its newly created strawweight division along with 10 other women. She was also selected as a cast member on the reality television series ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, even though she lost the position later as she was not 21 years old.
Paige VanZant was scheduled for a strawweight newcomers’ fight against Kailin Curran on October 4, 2014 in Halifax at UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Saffiedine, which was rescheduled to November 22 due to her back injury. She won her debut UFC match in the third round by TKO and earned ‘Fight of the Night’ honors, as well as a $50,000 bonus.
VanZant, who previously modeled for Nike and Columbia Sportswear, landed a sponsorship deal with Reebok in February 2015, thanks to her recent fame. Having won only one UFC fight at the time, she became the target of criticism, which prompted Dana White to defend her stating that she won the contract thanks to her "it" factor and personality.
She won her next UFC match against Felice Herrig by unanimous decision on April 18, 2015, in Newark, New Jersey, at UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold. On September 5 that year, she dominated Alex Chambers with aggressive strikes and grappling, and won via armbar submission in the third round.
While she was scheduled to fight Joanne Calderwood on December 10, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 80, she eventually faced Rose Namajunas and lost via submission in the fifth round in a one-sided bout.
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She made a strong comeback to the cage against Bec Rawlings on August 27, 2016 at UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit and won the fight via KO in the second round. The fight earned her ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus award for the first time.
She played her final strawweight division bout against Michelle Waterson on December 17, 2016 in the main event at UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson, which she lost via technical submission. She moved to the 125-pound flyweight division in August 2017 and is scheduled to face Jessica Eye at UFC 216 on October 7.
Paige VanZant partnered with professional dancer Mark Ballas and became a contestant on season 22 of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in March 2016. The pair reached the finals of the show, but lost to model Nyle DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd.
In March 2017, she was one of 16 celebrities participating in the celebrity cooking competition on the Food Network TV series, ‘Chopped’. Appearing alongside sports figures, such as LaMarr Woodley, Mariel Zagunis, and Dorothy Hamill, she became the winner by edging out Hamill in the dessert round.
Awards & Achievements
In 2014, a 20-year-old Paige VanZant won her debut UFC fight against Kailin Curran. She became one of the youngest fighters to receive the ‘Fight of the Night’ honor.
In August 2016, she won her first ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus award after defeating Bec Rawlings via KO. The same year she ranked No.8 on the ‘Strawweight MMA Fighter in the World’ list.
Partnering with professional dancer Mark Ballas, she finished second on the 22nd season of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in 2016. In March 2017, she won the celebrity cooking competition show ‘Chopped’.