There’s a bit of an uncomfortable topic regarding the news of Paige VanZant joining Bare Knuckle FC: the idea that, well, if you’ve ever watched a bare-knuckle boxing card, you know the fighters have a much higher chance of coming out all busted up than they might in the UFC or a traditional gloved boxing match.
Fortunately, VanZant herself addressed this head on after her signing was announced Wednesday.
“I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I’m just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to people that’s not the way I see myself at all,” she told ESPN. “This is a sport where people probably have the highest rate of getting cut open, and having long term scars is definitely something that I’m not even worried about for me.”
PVZ’s free agency was one of the strongest test cases of where the market stands for marquee fighters during this pandemic year of 2020. Both sides made it clear she wasn’t returning to the UFC.
Would ONE Championship make an offer, as they have in recent years for fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Sage Northcutt? Or has ONE’s money-printing machine been turned off in the COVID-19 era?
How about Bellator? It’s slowed down on the big-name signings, but PVZ vs. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane seemed like a no-brainer, attention-getting, marquee title matchup.
(We’d mention the PFL here, but the only news it seems to be making these days is people wanting out.)
Instead, Wednesday brought the news PVZ will compete in BKFC in what her management team claims is a “multi-million dollar deal.”
Landing PVZ is a coup for BKFC, which by and large dropped off the radar after getting the fight world’s attention with last year’s grudge match between Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov. The promotion has run five events since, none of which have commanded anywhere near the attention of Malignaggi-Lobov, But whenever PVZ’s first fight goes down, that will undoubtedly change.
VanZant came right out and said what everyone was thinking: She has a pretty face, and she’s not afraid to take some scars. The irony there is that if people view PVZ as all image and no substance at this stage of the game, that’s on them. VanZant’s UFC win-loss record might not have been spectacular, but she proved her toughness over and over again, getting into wars with the likes of Rose Namajunas and fighting through injuries like broken arms.
Bottom line? PVZ’s debut will be the biggest event for BKFC since Malignaggi-Lobov. You might scoff, but you’ll watch. That’s why it made sense for the promotion.
And if the money is what they say it is, that’s why it makes sense for VanZant, too, even if it didn’t seem that way at first glance.
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