Sport UFC 251: Paige VanZant staring at wide-open future after Fight Island as current contract expires
Dana White says Paige VanZant 'should definitely test free agency' after UFC 251 loss
ABU DHABI – Dana White doesn't sound like he's jumping at the opportunity to re-sign after her UFC 251 loss Saturday. At the event's post-fight news conference, MMA Junkie asked the UFC president if he wants to have VanZant (8-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) back under…At the event’s post-fight news conference, MMA Junkie asked the UFC president if he wants to have VanZant (8-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) back under the promotion’s banner in her next outing. VanZant’s UFC 251 fight vs. Amanda Ribas was the last on her current contract. VanZant tapped to a first-round armbar against Amanda Ribas.
Paige VanZant entered the UFC as an exciting prospect for a couple of reasons, with her good looks and exciting fighting style making her a promoter's dream for UFC president Dana White and Co. Now, VanZant enters UFC 251 on Saturday on the last fight of her current UFC deal, having battled mixed success and injuries over the past few years and with an uncertain future ahead.
VanZant will battle Amanda Ribas on the main card of the event on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, the kickoff of the UFC's Fight Island events. While VanZant has stated that she considers the fight a chance to "bet on herself," that bet is a longshot with "12-Gauge" a +550 underdog at William Hill Sportsbook.
Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of UFC 251 with Elton John, Men At Work, Chili Peppers
While it takes intense training, world-class skills and maybe even a bit of luck to register a UFC win, picking the right song to accompany you to the cage is a key talent, as well. Inside, see what the fighters from UFC 251 went with as their backing tracks in…Inside, see what the fighters from UFC 251 went with as their backing tracks in Abu Dhabi.
Win or lose, VanZant's future is very much up in the air. After a 5-3 run to date in the Octagon, the success hasn't exactly matched the hype and the aforementioned injuries have kept her out of the cage, most notably a broken arm suffered in her 2018 clash with Jessica-Rose Clark. The arm has continued to trouble VanZant, but she can no longer receive treatment on the arm through the UFC's medical policy.
"If I have any more problems with my arm, they aren't covered by the UFC," VanZant. "They only cover up to a year after your injury date and then you have to pay. I don't have my own health insurance, which is awful, but it's expensive.
"A year after my injury, I went to go get another doctor's appointment for my arm to make sure it's all good and they're like, 'your insurance is not covered anymore because the UFC only covers up to a year after your injury date.' So I was like oh no, here we go. Now I have to think about getting health insurance to cover my arm injury that I broke in the UFC."
Jorge Masvidal’s drawing power is clear after UFC 251. Now what can he do with it? | Opinion
"This thing is trending off the charts. This thing is trending higher than a Conor McGregor fight. This thing is trending as big as a fight as I've ever seen in my entire career." When UFC president Dana White said this t he day before UFC 251, you figured he was just doing his job as a promoter. Not that Jorge Masvidal didn’t become the breakout star of 2019 (he certainly did), but when you start talking about the possibility for anyone’s fight to outdo Conor McGregor numbers, it’s hard to believe.
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The 26-year-old has already established herself as media savvy and multi-talented, winning an episode of "Chopped," finishing second on "Dancing With The Stars" and releasing an autobiography. But fighting has been her constant professional home since 2012, and while she has expressed a desire to continue fighting -- and fighting in the UFC's famed Octagon -- financial compensation has become an issue.
"I've added up all the money I've made in the UFC over six years, and I could have just had a regular job with the same pay," VanZant said. "I'm so thankful for everything the UFC has done for me, the platform they've given me. This is nothing against the UFC. But the contract I signed is what I signed and I know I need to honor it. That's why I'm fighting this last fight out and I was never trying to break it early. It's important to fight this fight out, honor my contract and then say, 'listen, this is my value and this is what I need to be paid to make it worth it.'"
Spinning Back Clique: Why Jorge Masvidal will be just fine coming out of UFC 251
Welcome to "Spinning Back Clique," MMA Junkie's weekly show that takes a spin through the biggest topics in mixed martial arts. This week, Simon Head hosts and is joined by MMA Junkie Radio's "Gorgeous" George and "Goze," as well as senior reporter Mike Bohn. SHOW…SHOW TOPICS
A win over Ribas would certainly elevate VanZant's worth. Ribas is on a four-fight winning streak and is emerging as a potential future title challenger. But a loss could mean VanZant's exit from the world's biggest fighting stage.
There are other options, of course. VanZant could potentially follow the lead of Sage Northcutt and compete for ONE Championship. Or, she could be an attractive option for Bellator. Both promotions would likely be interested in offering up solid money for a fighter with VanZant's marketability, even if she washed out of the UFC with a barely .500 record.
Fighting could, also, simply become a part of her past. With her various successes outside of the cage, there could be future options that don't involve strapping on gloves and getting punched in the face. She has even teased interest in the past in following in Ronda Rousey's footsteps and signing with WWE, saying in 2018 that she is "a big fan of what they do, so it would be great to be a part of."
Ultimately, VanZant may be fighting Saturday for her UFC life, but options are abound for her future -- in and out of the cage.
Abu Dhabi rep: 'Fight Island' came at 'huge' cost but sets bar for sporting events around globe .
ABU DHABI – As the UFC readies to kick off a run of four events on "Fight Island," the government that partnered with the promotion to make it happen admits it wasn't an easy – or cheap – proposition. Saeed Al-Saeed, the destination marketing director of…Saeed Al-Saeed, the destination marketing director of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, said it took more than 20 different organizations, including several government agencies, Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Airports Company, to pull off the feat.