Glamour fighter betrayed by parting shot
Dana White's words hurt more than an Amanda Ribas armbar.
After limping to a first round submission loss in what could be her final fight in the UFC last weekend, Paige VanZant admits her boss's declaration she should look elsewhere to continue her career came as a shock.
Heading into her flyweight battle against Ribas at UFC 251, VanZant was vocal about exploring her options in free agency after completing the last fight on her contract. She says she was undervalued on her existing deal and could make more money as an Instagram influencer.
With four defeats in her past six fights dating back to 2015, and injuries keeping her out of the Octagon for lengthy periods, White encouraged VanZant to leave.
"When you talk all that stuff, 'I'm not being paid enough', and you're fighting inconsistently, one time in the last year, (suffering) injuries, and then got smoked in the first round of the fight? She should definitely test free agency," White said.
While the 26-year-old admitted she didn't hear White's comments from the horse's mouth, when they were relayed to her she felt somewhat betrayed.
"It's unfortunate because I feel like I have a really good relationship with Dana," VanZant said in an interview with MMA Fighting.
"I feel like I thought we were closer friends and he could text me or call me. Something to have a little bit of compassion, something to communicate with me personally but maybe he will. We just don't know. I'm sure it's an uncomfortable situation.
"Dana's comments, what I'm hearing you say, he wants me to test free agency then hopefully they just let me go. If that's how they feel, then they'll just let me be free."
VanZant maintained she isn't looking at options outside the UFC because of any bad blood, but simply wants to realise her true worth.
"I've never spoken negatively about the UFC. I'm not bitter about where I am in my career, bitter about the position that the UFC has put me in whatsoever," VanZant said.
"I just felt like for myself, I wanted to test free agency and that's not because I dislike the UFC or dislike Dana or anybody.
"I know the way my career has looked the last few years but I also know the talent that I have fought against. The combined record of the people who have beat me is pretty high.
"I just think I want to be paid more. No matter where you work, if you feel you're undervalued, there should be absolutely no shame in asking for a raise. Especially if you've done your time and put your work in. I've been in the UFC for six years."
VanZant has posed for Sports Illustrated, featured on reality TV shows and boasts 2.6 million Instagram followers, so she's not short on options when it comes to a career change.
Bellator boss Scott Coker said he will "definitely" reach out to VanZant to gauge her interest in joining the promotion and although she wants to keep fighting, the American feels she's capable of so much more wherever she ends up.
"I want to go into negotiations, whoever it's with, I want to know that they want me to be part of their family," VanZant told MMA Fighting. "I want to work for them.
"I want to open a relationship where I can work - whether that's working the desk or reporting or doing behind-the-scenes work. I have a passion for camera and TV work as well.
"So I would love if I could more than just fight for a promotion. I ultimately want to be part of the family."
Originally published as UFC glamour girl betrayed by parting shot