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'Not just a pretty face': Paige VanZant keen to prove doubters wrong as she signs with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship

'Not just a pretty face': Paige VanZant keen to prove doubters wrong as she signs with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship
Paige VanZant says she is eager to show that there is more to her than just being a pretty face after leaving MMA to sign a multi-fight, multi-million-dollar deal with upstart fight league Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

VanZant announced that she had made the switch late on Wednesday following the expiration of her UFC contract last month.

The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model was submitted in the first round of her "Fight Island" bout with Amanda Ribas, meaning that she leaves the organization on the back of a 2-4 run in her six most recent fights.

"12 Gauge" spurned a deal from UFC competitors Bellator to move outside of MMA for the first time in her career, and will now join the exodus of mixed martial artists to try their hand(s) in the world of bare-knuckle boxing. 

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"I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I'm just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to be people that's not the way I see myself at all," VanZant told ESPN.

"I know momentarily I am. I still have a huge passion for MMA, and I just recently relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team. Obviously they are one of the best MMA gyms in the world.

"Right now, my sole focus is boxing, but in a few years I could go back to MMA or I could just be making so much doing this bare knuckle boxing that I don't do anything else."

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship has struck deals with several UFC alums, including Artem Lobov and Jason Knight, who combined for two hotly-contested fights last year.

"The Russian Hammer" also won his grudge match with former world champion boxer Paulie Malignaggi in the organization's most successful live event to date.

The promotion's chief, David Feldman, will no doubt be hoping that VanZant's signature will provide a surge in interest for the fight league similar to the mainstream attention attracted by the Lobov vs. Malignaggi bout. 

VanZant's crossover status from her appearances as a fitness model, as well national fame as a result of being a castmember on a season of "Dancing with the Stars" makes her an ideal candidate to help BKFC along to the next level – but some fans think that this could come at the loss of her All-American good looks. 

But she insisted that the switch was the "best fit" for her career moving forward.

"I talked to a lot of different promotions," she explained.

"I actually had no idea that I would have so many come with such big offers.

"I knew I would get the big players in the game, like Bellator or ONE, but I actually had five or six huge, solid promotions that I had to decide on.

"For me, at this moment in my career, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship was the one that fit best."

There is as of yet no indication as to when VanZant's bare-knuckle debut will come but a rematch with former UFC foe Bec Rawlings, who VanZant defeated in the UFC via switch-kick KO, appears to be a reasonable wager. 

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