PVZ: Criticism has been hard to take
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant appeared recently on Submission Radio, ahead of her fight with Rose Namajunas, at UFC Fight Night 80 on December 10, 2015 at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.
VanZant, 21, has come under bizarre criticism for receiving a Reebok sponsorship and prominence in the sport due to her model looks. If she has received more opportunities than she would have if she was built like Roy Nelson, then if that offends, blame Reebok, blame the UFC, blame the fans. But blaming a female athlete because she is attractive is bizarre.
Paige was asked if the criticism was hard to take.
“I wanna say it wasn’t hard, but it was,” she conceded. “I’m somebody who…I do take what people say to heart, and it was hard at first, but then I have to look at it like, I have so many blessings in my life. There’s no way I should look at anything like this with a negative heart or with a negative emotion behind it. So I just think about how blessed I am, and how hard – I know how hard I’ve worked, and I know what I’ve sacrificed, and I’ve had a very, very hard road to get to the UFC. So I know I deserve every second and every opportunity I’m getting, and I’m just going to continue to win fights and make a great statement for these companies. I am very blessed to be a part of Reebok, and I just want to continue be a good representative of their company, and for all the companies i work with moving forward.”
“I think people just still have to remember that this is still an entertainment industry. It’s all about ticket sales and it’s about how many people you can bring to the fights, and how many sales you can get. And in reality though, if I lose my fights, none of it matters. It doesn’t matter if people think I’m good looking, it doesn’t matter if I have this draw behind me. If I lose my fights, I’m gonna lose all of that. So for me, the pressure is still high. The pressure is still on to win fights, and I’m gonna continue to do that.”
“I don’t want a sob story or anything, but of course I struggled. I gave up a lot. I made a lot sacrifices to get where I am, and I’m just real happy that I get to be a part of the UFC, I get to be a part of Reebok, and I’m definitely on a stage that I want to be on. I always knew from a very young age that I was meant for big things, I was meant to be successful, and now I’m finally able – it’s like for me, everyone’s like ‘oh you’re so young. How do you deal with it?’. For me, it’s like it’s finally happening. It took so long for me to be on this stage and to be in front of an audience. I really am ready to perform.”
“The only hard thing is just, you know, I am young and I’m making big decisions that affect my entire life. So I moved to Vegas when I was 18, so I just kind of left my pad, I left everything behind, I left my friends behind. But I mean, it all happened for the best. Obviously. I’m in the UFC now. It really showed me who my closest friends were. My best friends are still, they go to every fight they can make, and they’re there for me every second of every day if I need them. And we may not be in the same state, but we still are very supportive or each other. And I definitely had to leave some family. Luckily, now I’m living in Sacramento, which is a lot closer to my friends and family. So I see them on the weekends, or after my fights I make sure I go down to Reno and hang out with family for a while.”
VanZant also addressed charges that she gets carefully selected fights in the UFC.
“I think that anyone that knows anything about the Strawweight division, knows there’s only 30 athletes,” she began. “So once you’re in the top 15, it’s very selective who you have fights with. So that’s why when we looked at a new opponent with Joanne, we had to find someone who either hadn’t just fought, or didn’t have a fight lined up already. That’s very hard. Rose just fought. So it’s awesome that she stepped up and she’s taking this fight. You know, and there isn’t enough girls in the division. But you have to take the fight that you’re offered, and so I’m gonna take every single fight the UFC offers me.”
VanZant has also received light hearted ribbing about Sage Northcutt, the Ken to her Barbie.
“You know I’m definitely happy about the comparison,” she said. “It’s not anything negative. We’re both young and that’s just the way it is. We’re young in a sport, that is something that is really an honor to be a part of, especially being in the UFC at this age. It’s a huge accomplishment. So it’s all great comparisons, and I’m excited that we get to fight on the same card together. I think it’s a great thing, and we’ll be able to show off as these young kids. We’re definitely coming to make a statement.”
VanZant had been scheduled to fight Joanne Calderwood, but an injury forced a new opponent – Rose Namajunas.
“I do think Joanne and Rose bring different things to the table,” said PVZ. “Obviously we do know Rose beat Joanne on the Ultimate Fighter. I think they both have their things that make them good fighters. I will say I think Rose has a more extensive skillset as far as stand up. On the ground she has a more extensive skill set. So I’m definitely preparing for that, and I’m just excited that I get to fight someone that’s ranked higher than me, and hopefully I can move up in the rankings.”
“Obviously I’m gonna make little adjustments here and there. My training partners are going to change their style a little bit to be a little bit more like her. But for me, this is definitely a winnable fight, from just getting to be the best competitor that I can be, making gains everywhere, in Jiu Jitsu and stand up, and I’m gonna be athletically ready for this fight.”
“This is a great fight for me. I plan to win it in every area. I definitely haven’t shown off all of my skillset that I have, so I’m excited to get back in there. I’ve made a lot of improvements since my last fight. I’ve been able to watch my fights and see the areas I’ve improved and the areas that still need work. So I’m definitely going to be ready for this, wherever the fight goes.”