Justin Barrasso
Friday August 26th, 2016

Fresh off finishing as a runner-up on Dancing with the Stars, Paige VanZant stressed that her focus is on the Octagon.

Her future, however, may also include the squared circle. Unlike Conor McGregor, who raised eyebrows with by dissing WWE wrestlers, VanZant has been rumored to appear with the worldwide leader in professional wrestling.

“We heard a little bit from them,” explained VanZant. “They’re someone I’d love to partner with and work with, they’re a great organization.”

VanZant confirmed the ongoing flirtation with WWE is legitimate.

“I’m a huge fan of WWE, and I definitely want to keep them close,” said VanZant. “Eventually, it’s still something I would love to do.”

The 22-year-old VanZant, who is as dangerous in the cage as she is beautiful outside of it, is a hot commodity because of the one-two punch of her fighting skills and personality.

While working with WWE remains a possibility in the future, VanZant’s next task is Saturday’s bout on Fox’s UFC Fight Night against Bec Rawlings.

“She’s known for her toughness,” said VanZant. “She goes out there to fight and she’s got good boxing skills.”

VanZant (6-2) and Rawlings (7-4)—who is trained by the extremely talented Eric Del Fierro—are two contenders looking to add a major victory to the resume in the UFC’s strawweight division. Rawlings, the 27-year Australian mother of two, recently commented that she is looking forward to the chance to “destroy something pretty” on Fight Night.

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VanZant grew up on the Oregon coast, paddle boarding, hiking, and mountain biking, as well as dancing at her parents’ dance studio from the age of three.

“There is a lot more to me than just being a crazy fighter,” said a laughing VanZant. “All those dance lessons finally paid off.”

After an incredible run on Dancing with the Stars, fighters grew even more envious of the talented VanZant. Yet she refuses to allow negative views to weigh her down.

Dancing with the Stars was a really great experience,” said VanZant. “People were definitely surprised that I’m a fighter, or they couldn’t believe I’m a professional fighter, but I feel like I’m going to get that for a while. I’m excited to bring a new demographic over to MMA and the UFC.”

Reports that VanZant would turn full-time to Hollywood were premature.

“It’s been great to get back into full training with Team Alpha Male,” explained VanZant. “I have an amazing coach staff, and everything is going really well at the gym. Training has reminded me how I missed fighting.”

In addition to becoming the youngest fighter to ever headline a UFC main event at only 21 years old, VanZant recorded the first stoppage of a fight in strawweight history with her victory over Kailin Curran in November of 2014. Despite the accomplishments, VanZant believes she is just as hungry as ever.

“It’s actually really easy to stay grounded in this sport,” said VanZant. “You can’t go into the cage and not love it, and you can’t go in there unprepared. You have to prepare. I also have a really good inner circle and team that keeps me grounded.”

Discipline, hard work, devotion are three of VanZant’s strongest attributes in the vastly competitive field of mixed martial arts.

“People forget how much goes into a fight and a fight camp,” she said. “It’s really hard. The diet is hard – you need to have a lot of strength and willpower to fight. It’s a great career, and I’m grateful I was able to share it with the world on Dancing with the Stars.”

VanZant headlined UFC Fight Night last December against Rose Namajunas, a battle that she lost by submission in the fifth round. No amount of fame or notoriety has helped ease the pain of the loss.

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“Losing is terrible,” said VanZant. “You can learn from a loss and see areas where you need to improve, but I prefer to learn from my wins. Losing isn’t fun, and I’m happy to get back in there, redeem myself, and put on a good fight.”

VanZant also discussed the importance of her faith.

“I do Athlete Devotion throughout all my fight camps,” said VanZant. “I am a Christian, so I fight with God first, and I have my devotions with me everywhere I go.”

Once the fight is over, VanZant knows exactly how she will celebrate.

“I’ve been craving Thai food for a long time,” she said, her thoughts immediately returning to the fight. “Rawlings is a very good opponent, so it will be a good test for me, but I’m excited to go in there and pull out the win.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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