Paige VanZant looks back on her decision to walk away from the UFC to Find Fortune on OnlyFans

Paige VanZant on OnlyFans

After seven years and nine fights under the UFC banner, Paige VanZant walked away from the promotion in pursuit of happiness and financial freedom.

Stepping inside the Octagon for the final time at UFC 251, ’12 Gauge’ suffered a first-round submission loss at the hands of Amanda Ribas. Despite her middling 5-4 record, the promotion was determined to retain her services. After hitting free agency, the UFC made an offer to keep her on board, but VanZant decided to take a chance on herself and walked away, feeling it was time to try something else on for size.

“Me re-signing with the UFC would have been the safe choice, but I just wasn’t happy anymore,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “It’s not ill will toward the UFC, but I just knew I needed something else. I needed a change. I signed with the UFC when I was 19. I had my first fight when I was 20. I need something different. I need to spark my passion again.

“Looking back, I kind of had my mind made up that I was ready to leave the UFC. So when I became a free agent and they came with their offer to re-sign me, I was already moved on. That part of my life is closed, and I was ready for the next chapter, and I didn’t know what it would be.”

Shortly after her UFC exit, VanZant signed a lucrative deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. It was a relatively surprising decision given that, at the time, bare-knuckle boxing was only legal in a handful of states. Still, the opportunity presented ’12 Gauge’ with a new challenge, unlike anything she had done before.

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And the money was pretty nice too.

“Making the transition to BKFC, I’m really happy I did it still,” VanZant said. “I’m so super happy with the decision.

“Me switching to BKFC hasn’t been successful just for wins, I feel accomplished. I went 10 rounds with some really, really tough people, some really tough chicks doing bare-knuckle boxing. Anybody who steps into bare-knuckle boxing needs to get a round of applause. It’s a whole different animal. It’s violent and brutal, and it feels different.”

Paige VanZant hits the jackpot on onlyFans

Of course, you can’t talk about Paige VanZant’s post-UFC run without making mention of her incredible success through the subscription-based content site OnlyFans. During an appearance on Barstool Sports’ OnlyStans podcast last year, she revealed that within 24 hours of launching her page, she had eclipsed all of her earnings in combat sports combined.

“I launched it right before my first BKFC fight. I’m in the car on the way from the press conference back to my hotel, and I logged in, and it had only been live for an hour and I was seeing the subscribers going up, and I think I had 52,000 subscribers at one point. I was showing my husband, and I was like, ‘Oh my word!’ That moment driving back [to the hotel], I was of course extremely excited to fight, but I was like our lives just changed forever. I was like, ‘This is OK, this is going to work out. All the risks are worth it. If I never work with another sponsor again, we’re going to be fine.’”

Since then, VanZant has gained the type of financial freedom that getting punched in the face for a living could never bring. Needless to say, she has absolutely no regrets regarding the choices she has made as it has allowed her to build her own unique brand and rely on herself to make money.

“I don’t have sponsors – I don’t have to,” VanZant said. “I’m working on building my own company, promoting myself and not just building up other people. I don’t wake up and have to push an agenda for somebody, or sell something for a company or help them grow. I’m just building me and myself, and sharing things that I’m passionate about, and sharing things that are absolutely true. No one’s paying me to say anything that I say. It all comes straight from the source.”

VanZant is well past the point where she needs fighting to make a living, but her passion for combat sports still has her chomping at the bit to make one more appearance inside the BKFC ring. When and where that takes place is still to be determined, but even that likely won’t be the last time we see ’12 Gauge’ throw hands.

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Her time with the UFC may no longer be visible in the rearview, but VanZant hopes to strap on the four-ounce gloves for a return to MMA under another promotional banner before it’s all said and done.

“I get to do commentary work with the PFL — working with the PFL, the way they treat their athletes, it’s absolutely incredible, and it just opened up my mind and my options so much to where I get to do pretty much anything I want to,” VanZant said.

“If I were to do MMA again, it would definitely be with the PFL. I love the way they treat everybody. Their organization is incredible. I’ve been loving doing commentary work for them and doing behind the scenes, just because I do like being on camera, so I’ve been having fun with that. But I do believe as of right now, just in my mind, if I were going to do MMA it would be with PFL.”