Former UFC star Paige VanZant is taking her talents to the bare-knuckle circuit.
VanZant (8-5), fresh off a resounding end to her UFC deal, spurned rival mixed martial arts promotions including Bellator MMA to announce Wednesday she has signed with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, according to ESPN's Ariel Helwani.
The 26-year-old VanZant, who lost four of her final six UFC bouts yet gained a crossover following through competing on "Dancing With The Stars," posted a picture on Instagram of her signing the contract. Terms of her deal were not disclosed, but according to ESPN's Ariel Helwani, it is a multi-fight, multi-million dollar contract.
"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 Helwani.
Founded in 2018, BKFC has promoted 11 cards to date on pay-per-view featuring its hybrid bare-knuckle boxing rule set, which has appealed to many faded former UFC standouts given the allowance of clinch fighting and dirty boxing.
The fights are held inside a circular four-rope ring featuring five two-minute rounds. In July, BKFC also announced a deal to stream future fight cards on the all-sports app DAZN.
VanZant was initially thought to be a future Ronda Rousey figure for UFC as a female star who could cross over to multiple entertainment ventures outside the Octagon. But despite winning her first three fights following her 2014 UFC debut, including six of her first seven pro bouts overall, VanZant's evolution as a fighter stalled due to injuries and questions about her commitment.
Although PVZ was able to deliver highlight-reel moments like her 2016 switch-kick knockout of Bec Rawlings, she typically lost when stepping up in competition as a strawweight and flyweight fighter. Her final UFC bout on July 12 ended disastrously as VanZant, who cried on her walk to the cage, was submitted in just over two minutes by Amanda Ribas.
There was plenty of thought VanZant could end up with Bellator MMA, which promotes her husband, welterweight Austin Vanderford (9-0) until BKFC secured the deal. Easily the highest-profile signing to date for BKFC, VanZant joins fellow UFC alums Artem Lobov, Chris Leben, Jason Knight, Hector Lombard and Rawlings as featured fighters.