Former UFC fighter Paige VanZant looks like she lives a glamorous life on social media but she’s revealed just how hard she can take her losses.
The 27-year-old entered the UFC in 2014 and after three straight wins, battled her way to a headliner against two-time women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas in December 2015.
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But including the defeat to Namajunas, VanZant lost four of her last six fights and said she wanted to explore free agency after her final fight against Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 in July 2020.
By then VanZant was modelling, had more than 2.9 million Instagram followers and had appeared on reality TV shows including Dancing with the Stars.
But in her chest beats the heart of a fighter, despite some dire performances in the cage.
Paige VanZant didn’t quite live up to her potential in the UFC.Source:Getty Images
Having left the UFC for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, VanZant has lost both her fights — to Britain Hart at BKFC: Knucklemania in February and to former UFC starlet Rachael Ostovich at BKFC 19 in July — by unanimous decision.
Her four-fight deal is worth a reported $1m, but money doesn’t solve everything as VanZant revealed how much the loss to Ostovich hurt.
In her video blog series she shares with husband and fellow MMA fighter Austin Vanderford, VanZant broke down in tears talking about the aftermath of the loss.
VanZant said she felt like her online presence gave people a false idea of her life and because of that “everyone expects me to lose and everyone expects me to fail”.
“I just feel like people have this specific perception of who I am and especially online. It’s crazy how much people can hate on a single person. I just don’t get it,” she said.
“I pride myself of being a good person. I think that’s the most important thing for me. I never talk bad about my opponents. I never say a single negative thing about their character. You never know what somebody’s going through. You never know what someone’s on the verge of.”
Instagram isn’t reality.Source:Instagram
After admitting she felt like she had won the fight with Ostovich, VanZant’s emotions got the better of her and she found herself outside and in tears.
“When I walked out of the ring, I didn’t just walk to my locker room, I literally walked all the way outside and I just went and cried in the parking lot by myself,” VanZant said. “I said some things to my husband that are pretty terrible about like my mental state.
“I told him I didn’t want to live anymore, that this wasn’t for me anymore. Like life wasn’t for me anymore so I was disappointed, It was hard.”
VanZant also spoke about her husband’s career trajectory in comparison to her own. The 31-year-old Vanderford is 11-0 in his professional MMA career and was announced as the next challenger for Gegard Mousasi’s Bellator middleweight title.
After years of being “Mr VanZant”, the tables have clearly turned.
“It can be hard when Austin and I are married and he keeps winning and I keep losing but honestly him and his success is the only thing that keeps me going,” VanZant said. “Because I do feel like we win together.
“His next fight will be for a title and I know he’s going to win. I just know how good it’s going to feel for him and for me and I’m so happy and I’m so proud of him. His title fight to look forward makes it all worth it and makes me feel a little better.”
VanZant breaks down as she spoke about her mental health.Source:YouTube
VanZant said she was going to take some time off to heal her body then get back in the gym and continue her path.
But she had a message for those who thought they had an idea of who she is from what they’ve seen on social media.
“Anyone out there who looks at me on like Instagram and Twitter and TikTok and those kinds of things, all you do is see a smile. I can promise you that Instagram’s just the pretty side and it’s just as important for people to see the real side too,” she said.
“People like me struggle a lot, everybody does. And mental health is no joke and I think people need to start … I need to really start taking my mental health more seriously and losses suck and going through hard times is not fun but it does get better. You can get through it and life does go on. It’s a good life out there.”
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