What a difference a year makes.
In 2014, Paige VanZant was taken off the all-female 20th season of the UFC's reality show The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned and was going to determine the first UFC Women's strawweight champ. The reason for her dismissal was because, at 20 years old, she was too young to be in the contestants' house where alcohol was going to be present. Last night, though, Paige found herself on the card against Felice Herrig for UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. And she also found herself victorious by unanimous decision.
Before embarking on her rigorous training for her second UFC fight, VanZant (now 5-1-0) got on the phone with Complex to discuss everything from her appeal to competing in mixed martial arts to her culinary life before the UFC.
Interview by Jose Martinez (@ZayMarty).
You're fairly new, so for the people that don't know, what was the appeal to competing in mixed martial arts?
My appeal to the whole MMA field was just the competition of it all. I'm very, very competitive. I grew up competing with brothers and neighbors. I was a dancer for 13 years, so I'm used to the competition. I needed something to challenge myself a little more. I found fighting and it completely fit my personality.
Now, your dad was the one who convinced you to go into boxing when you were younger?
Yeah, he did. My dad grew up wrestling. He knew Ken Shamrock and I didn't know who he was at the time. So, he found out that Shamrock was in a gym in Reno and he wanted me to go try a class with him. I tried it and fell in love the first day. Ken told me that I had potential in this sport and he's the reason I kept at it.
People tend to put labels on people and for you, it's your "Girl Next Door" looks. Does this bother you?
I'm okay with it. It's a part of who I am. I am very much a girly girl as well as being this tough, athletic fighter. I grew up a tomboy. I got my first four wheeler when I was eight. I got my first dirt bike shortly after. So, I have a lot of these manly qualities, I guess you would say. But, I also like to go get dressed up every weekend.
What are some interests for you outside of the Octagon?
Outside of MMA, I honestly don't do a lot. I love to get dressed and go to the fights. I love my family and it's always awesome whenever I can go and visit. I go to a lot of movies. And I actually love to cook. I was in culinary school for a little while, but it was just too hard to cut weight and cook at the same time.
You were doing both MMA and culinary school at the same time?
I was. It was too difficult because you have to try your food and I kept having to say no. It was really rough. Eventually, I'm going to go back to school, but I'm going to wait until I'm done with the whole fighting thing.
Did you have a focus in culinary school?
I like to cook dinners. I make pasta a lot and I would love to open a restaurant eventually, or something along those lines one day.
You said you don't do a lot outside of the Octagon, but are you able to catch up on watching TV shows or music or anything like that?
I do. We have practice in the morning, afternoon and at night, but in between those times I'll watch shows on Netflix. I love Friends. It's an old one, but it's one of my favorites. And Sex in the City. That's a fun one, too.
What about music? What are you listening to right now?
You know, my music taste is a little back-and-forth. I love country music. I grew up in the country. But I love more of the mainstream hip-hop. I'm young and it's the culture that I'm in.
Last year, you were announced as one of the competitors for The Ultimate Fighter 20, but who were taken off the roster for being too young. Looking back, how did that make you feel?
It was bittersweet. I was very upset when I found out that I couldn't be on the show. When I got pulled to be on the show, I knew that you had to be 21 years old to be on it, so I knew it was going to be something that would come up. It was sad at first, but in the long run, it completely worked out in my favor. It was a blessing in disguise. I have been able to fight in the UFC, win my fight and get "Fight of the Night." It all worked out in the end.
Once the fight was officially announced, what goes into the next couple of months, in terms of preparation?
The next few months are going to be a very hard training camp. This is going to be the toughest opponent I have ever faced, so I'm just ready to train harder than ever, go in there and get another win.
Who are some of the fighters in the MMA you are influenced by?
I guess that would have to be my training partners. I'm next to champions every day. Uriah Faber has been an awesome coach who has helped me out a lot and he has put in a lot of time and effort to make me a lot better. It definitely showed in my last fight.
Do you have a timetable for your MMA career?
I take it one day at a time. I see what opportunities are presented and I really don't have a plan. I can fight for the next 10, 15 years, but I do want to have a family. I want to have kids. I really don't want to wait until I'm 35 or 40 years old to do that. So, I'm just going to keep doing this for as long as I'm passionate about it.