Paige VanZant’s road to Fight Island has included a few twists along the way.
Set to battle Amanda Ribas as part of UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the 26-year-old fighter is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity with free agency upon her.
“I want to prove how good I am,” VanZant recently told ESPN. “I know how hard I’ve worked. So, no, the pressure isn’t higher, and I do truly feel my value doesn’t change, whether I win or lose. I still have set myself up for success, and I will still forever be Paige VanZant, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out there and fight to die.
“This fight matters more to me than any fight in my entire life. I’m willing to put it all out there.”
It is Van Zant’s final fight on her UFC contract and she could garner interest from MMA competitors, like Bellator or ONE Championship.
With the help of her “sexy” trainer, husband and fellow fighter Austin Vanderford, VanZant has been staying in fighting shape during the coronavirus pandemic, having some stripped-down fun on Instagram along the way.
“My wife and I have been called ‘The Van Nudists’ during lockdown and it is definitely appropriate,” Vanderford previously described the couple’s nude shoots to The Telegraph.
For much of April, VanZant and Vanderford — who have been married since 2018 — conquered social media in their birthday suits.
“Every day we tried to come up with something new, whether we were working out, naked meal planning and cooking, gardening, out on the balcony, or just lounging about. We are having fun with it,” Vanderford said.
Though the naked escapades have since subsided, VanZant knows much is on the line as UFC 251 looms.
“I just feel like a regular extension isn’t what I want, and I want to prove my worth and my value — and I want a brand-new contract,” VanZant said to ESPN.
With a current fight rate of $46,000 and a matching win-bonus, VanZant is eager to prove herself against Ribas, entering the fight as a significant underdog.
“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,'” VanZant said, according to CBS Sports.
Should VanZant fall to Ribas on Saturday, she could look to more fruitful opportunities outside the octagon.
“With endorsements, I make way more money sitting at home posting pictures on Instagram than I do fighting,” VanZant previously said, in addition to her hefty “Dancing with the Stars” paycheck.
“If I were to stop everything I do outside of fighting and just fight, I would be at a loss financially by a long shot,” she said.
With over 2.5 followers and counting, Instagram will certainly be watching VanZant’s next move.