How UFC bombshell is making millions

Paige VanZant knows her good looks won’t last forever but the risk of entering the brutal world of bare knuckle boxing is worth the reward.

The former UFC star was seeking greater riches after she completed the final fight of her contract with the MMA promotion last month — a submission loss to Amanda Ribas. Three losses in her past four fights meant VanZant was on the back foot when it came to negotiating a new deal and UFC president Dana White gave the 26-year-old his blessing to explore free agency.

VanZant wanted to know her true worth and according to the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), who won the race for her services, that equates to millions of dollars.

It’s a fair step up from a fighter who revealed she could earn more money spruiking products on Instagram than she could in the Octagon.

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VanZant became aware of BKFC from an MMA commentator and she and her husband thought it sounded like an interesting move. The American’s manager Malki Kawa was teased about the potential relationship by BKFC matchmaker Dean Toole, who encouraged him to look into it with the organisation’s president David Feldman.

“David says it was easy working with me. I’m just going to say it was easy to work with David,” Kawa told MMA Fighting.

“He’s a promoter who gets it, he understands it. I appreciated it from the get-go because there was really no nonsense.”

VanZant is taking a new path.Source:Getty Images

VanZant — who has achieved crossover fame by appearing on reality TV, posing for Sports Illustrated and boasting more than 2.7 million Instagram followers — wanted a deal that was about more than just fighting. Keen to explore her options outside the cage, she needed sweeteners on top of the chance to punch the living daylights out of people.

VanZant was inundated with offers from everywhere but one stood out.

Kawa said his client inked a “multimillion-dollar deal” with BKFC earlier this month that includes four fights and “sprinkles and cherries” on top. They include plans to use VanZant across the entire business, including on the broadcast side of things.

A door has also been left open in the contract to allow her to compete outside of MMA or boxing — so a stint in professional wrestling might be on the cards.

“It was more than just what I feel like they were offering me financially,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “It was the opportunity I was excited about.

“I feel like for a long time I wanted a promotion to know yes, I’m a fighter first and foremost and my end goal is to be successful in fighting but at the same time there’s so many other things that I am talented at and have a lot more to bring to the table.

“They’re letting me come out and commentate. They’re letting me be a part of the organisation, more than just an athlete for them.

“That’s something for so long that I’ve been complimented on — that I am talented inside the cage and when the cage door closes I’m there to fight but I can offer so much more to the table through past experiences.”

Feldman was singing from the same song sheet. From his position, VanZant was worth splashing out millions for because her appeal transcends the combat sports world.

He said both parties helping to “grow each other” is at the heart of their partnership.

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It’s all well and good to be buoyant about a multimillion-dollar payday but that won’t be any comfort in the heat of battle when someone’s fists are pummelling your face.

Long battles with injury including complications with a broken arm have proven VanZant has a high tolerance for pain, and even though her made-for-Instagram looks may not be such a welcome sight for followers after some bare-knuckle brawls, she’s ready to take the punches head on.

“There is that stigma, ‘Well, she’s just a pretty face’ but that’s not how I see myself at all,” VanZant said. “I see myself as a competitor and I see myself as a true, really good striker and an athlete.

“What better way to show that off.”

It’ll hurt a lot more getting hit without gloves.Source:Getty Images

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