Former UFC fighter Paige VanZant has signed an exclusive, four-fight deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, she told ESPN's Ariel Helwani.
The deal is worth over $1 million and also includes incentives, according to Helwani. Though not yet set, VanZant's debut is reportedly being planned for November.
"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," VanZant said. "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."
She added that her new contract is an "amazing opportunity."
VanZant completed her deal with the UFC in her last bout at UFC 251 in July, losing to Amanda Ribas via first-round submission. Company president Dana White suggested after the fight that VanZant should "definitely" test free agency.
Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Fighting's Steven Marrocco that VanZant declined an offer from the promotion. VanZant's husband, Austin Vanderford, is also an MMA fighter and competes under the Bellator banner.
VanZant said that while she won't be able to compete in MMA during her time with Bare Knuckle FC, she doesn't plan to close the door on the sport. She added that she and Vanderford recently moved to Florida to train at American Top Team, one of the top MMA gyms in the world.
VanZant made her Octagon debut in 2014 at the age of 20 and picked up three straight wins, but "12 Gauge" went 2-4 after that while battling numerous arm injuries. She moved up to the UFC's women's flyweight division in 2018 after struggling to hit 115 pounds, recording a 1-2 record in the weight class.
The 26-year-old is one of the few MMA fighters to enjoy mainstream success; she was the runner-up on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2016.
Bare Knuckle FC was founded in 2018 and has held 11 events, including one in July since the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier in 2020. The promotion has featured several UFC veterans, including Chris Leben, Hector Lombard, Artem Lobov, Jason Knight, and Gabriel Gonzaga.