Earlier this summer, as Paige Vanzant's star continued to rise, it became reasonable to wonder if the 22-year-old UFC strawweight would ever get in the cage again. She had just completed a stint on Dancing With the Stars, finishing second, and was cast in a remake of Jean Claude Van Damme’s 1989 classic Kickboxer.
If she wanted, it seemed, VanZant's fight career could have been over. But that's not what she wanted. This weekend, the fighter dubbed "the next Ronda Rousey" will get back in the Octagon for the first time since December, when she lost to Rose Namajunas via fifth round submission. And in an interview with MMA Fighting ahead of the fight, she reassured her fans that she's not going anywhere.
"It is all about the fighting, but also I want to be successful in any opportunity that comes my way. If these huge opportunities are coming, I want to take advantage of those. I'm a fighter, but I'm also a dancer. I'm also an actress. I have all these other attributes that I want to take advantage of and I feel like I'm going to get the opportunity to do that because of the UFC, but I'm not going to leave.
VanZant's fight this weekend will pit her against Bec Rawlings, an Australian strawweight who's won her last two fights. If VanZant is the girl next door, than Rawlings if her tatted-up bully. The 27-year-old has said her plan for the fight is to "rip the head off America’s sweetheart."