UFC Flyweight Paige VanZant hopes January’s ESPN debut will be a fresh start.

“12 Gauge” Paige has had her ups and downs since entering the UFC. At UFC on FOX 21 back in 2016, VanZant looked like a world-beater as she finished off Bec Rawlings with a jumping switch kick followed by hammerfists on the canvas.

VanZant hasn’t had her hand raised in victory since that night in 2016. She went on to lose consecutive fights to Michelle Waterson and Jessica-Rose Clark. Although she was having some growing pains in the Octagon she was thriving as a businesswoman outside of it.

VanZant Outside The Octagon

She finished as the runner-up in Dancing with the Stars and later would win the celebrity edition of Chopped. She also became a published author writing an autobiography about her personal struggles growing up in Oregon and her journey to the UFC.

Now training with Team Alpha Male, VanZant will be apart of a historic fight card. She will compete on the ESPN card when the promotion makes its debut on the sports network this January. “12 Gauge” hasn’t confirmed reports that her opponent will be Hawian fighter Rachael Ostovich.

“The UFC came to me and asked when I would be able to fight again,” VanZant told MMA Fighting via e-mail. “I was fortunate enough that it coincided with the first-ever ESPN card. I can’t wait to be apart of such a ground-breaking moment in the UFC. It’s a true honor.”

VanZant has been sidelined the last year. Her first surgery failed to correct the issue with her broken arm and she was forced to have yet another operation in July.

“It was super devastating being told that I had to go in for surgery a second time,” said VanZant. “I felt very defeated because I had to go through the healing process all over again. It was like the first six months was a total waste. I have been very careful after this surgery making sure I’m doing everything perfectly with recovery and getting back into the cage at 100 percent.”

VanZant has been given the go-ahead to accept the fight in January and fully expects to be 100% come fight night.

New Year

Somethings will be different for VanZant come the new year. Most notably she will be married to fellow fighter Austin Vanderford. Most likely VanZant will document the entire event on her social media channels. “12 Gauge” has become something of social media savant. She even chronicled her surgeries on her YouTube channel.

“I can’t wait to be on the next reality TV show that comes my way and I plan on putting out more books in the future,” VanZant said of the opportunities that have come her way both because of and outside of fighting. “On top of that I truly believe if I never found fighting I would have never found my future husband. Which I am so blessed to have him in my life he is so wonderful. It makes things so special that we share a career together. We support each other’s endeavors and try to be positive influences in each others lives.”

With a new year comes new goals but for VanZant the goal has been the same since she started fighting.

“When I began fighting I did it strictly for fun,” said VanZant. “I had no idea that fighting could take me this far or it would consume my life the way that it has.”

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Mike Straus @AKAstraus21 is a credentialed MMA journalist and a member of the MMAJA. He has been a fan of the sport since its inception and has been covering the sport professionally for three years. In the past, he has produced content for Fansided's Cagepages, mma-media.com, and Combatpress.com. He currently contributes for MyMMANews.com, he is a staff writer for Cagesidepress.com, and LowKickMMA.com. He most recently began writing for BJPenn.com.