Paige VanZant is still determined to score her first win under the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship banner.
It’s been more than two years since the UFC standout turned BKFC brawler has knuckled up inside the squared circle. She was originally set to appear at the promotion’s London debut in August 2022, but her bout with Charisa Sigala was inexplicably pulled from the card just days away from her scheduled arrival in The Big Smoke.
“The real frustration, I guess, was the lead-up to the fight — I worked so hard,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “I was so excited for this fight. But it was also a big accomplishment as a couple to say we got [my husband Austin Vanderford] ready for his fight. I was at his fight when I got the call that my fight got pulled. So him and I were supposed to fight days apart from each other. Just what goes into a fight camp for two people. Dieting for both of us, just the behind-the-scenes things that people don’t really understand what goes on, just getting prepared.
“For me to get the call that the fight got pulled — a fight I was so ready for, and I was so excited about. I cut all the weight early because I knew I would be traveling, I would be flying all the way to London. My dad was already in London waiting for me. It was depressing, and then trying to figure out how to get right back into a fight camp and not knowing when their next fight camp would be. We already had plans to go visit family in Alaska. It’s like, do I cancel my trip to Alaska? It was hard to figure out what to do next.”
After suffering back-to-back losses against Britain Hart and Rachael Ostovich in her first two BKFC outings, VanZant is determined to prove her worth and get back into the win column for the first time since 2019. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given that opportunity after putting in all the work.
“That’s the thing, I didn’t even get to fight,” VanZant said. “I didn’t get to prove myself. I didn’t get to go out and just do what I love. The fight camp is the struggle. You go in, you struggle, you lose weight, you work so hard and you sacrifice so much throughout your day-to-day to prepare for something, and to have it just taken away from you, it’s just frustrating.
“I did feel like there could have been things done differently. I don’t have any ill will toward BKFC. I would never speak negatively [about them], they’ve treated me extremely well. It’s just more the way it all played out was extremely frustrating.”
Paige VanZant has not closed the door on BKFC Return
VanZant has found plenty of ways to keep herself busy with her fight career in a holding pattern. Aside from making money hand over fist via OnlyFans and various social media outlets, the 29-year-old is currently overseeing the construction of her new home and recently launched a podcast with her husband and fellow fighter Austin Vanderford. ’12 Gauge’ has also dipped her toe into the world of pro wrestling, making multiple appearances for All Elite Wrestling.
Despite all of that success outside of the fight game, VanZant knows that she will inevitably be drawn back into the world of bare-knuckle boxing.
“It’s definitely bare-knuckle, and I don’t know if it’s down the road in six months, I don’t know if it’s down the road a year,” VanZant said. “I really just haven’t decided yet. I’m going to leave a lot of that up to my manager and my coaches. Just work on this time to get better and enjoy the training and not worry about signing a fight contract right away. But it’s definitely bare-knuckle.
“I love bare-knuckle boxing. I’ve now gone 10 rounds in bare-knuckle boxing and I’m searching for that victory. I’m searching for a lot of things in bare-knuckle boxing that I haven’t accomplished, and it will be with BKFC again.”