On Monday, Paige VanZant told Ariel Hewlani on The MMA Hour, that she would have loved the opportunity to be a part of The Ultimate Fighter 26 cast.This Friday, an inaugural women’s flyweight champion will be crowned at TUF 26 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. Millions will be tuning in to see who’s waist that 12 pounds of gold will be wrapped around; including strawweight turned flyweight competitor, Paige VanZant.
“I’ve seen a lot of talent at this division, I’m excited to see where this goes,” VanZant told Hewlani. “Looking at the 125-pound Ultimate Fighter right now– I feel like it wouldve been an amazing opporunity for me to be in the house.”
“I don’t know how that got passed up for me. I feel like I would’ve loved to be on this season of The Ultimate Fighter since I wasn’t able to compete on the 115-division [TUF 20] because at the time I was only 19-years-old,” she continued.
VanZant understands that spending six weeks in a house with fifteen other women who are all competing for the same thing is no easy task– and Hewlani was quick to ask her why she would want to put herself in that situation. “Ya know, just because for me, the reward is greater than the risk. I understand it’s really stressful and everyone who has been on [the show] says it’s not an easy thing to go through, but the opportunity to fight for a belt immediately is the ultimate dream for all UFC fighters, to be a belt holder,” she replied. “It would’ve been an amazing opportunity in my hand.”
So why didn’t it happen? VanZant says the timing was off. “I did (ask the UFC to be on the show). I don’t think it was even a conversation though. It was kind of– I saw the cast was announced and maybe I don’t pay attention to whats going on on social media enough, but I was like ‘oh my gosh, there’s an Ultimate Fighter for the 125.'” “I had no idea until the cast was announced. It was too late. It’s was bummer. But I’ve been excited, I loved watching it and there is a lot of talented girls in there.”
Though she was bummed to not be a part of the show, VanZant is loving the fast growth of the exciting new division. When asked who she thought was the best on the show, she didn’t give a decisive answer but she did mention two names that stuck out to her. “Gosh, there’s been a few girls that have really impressed me. Roxanne, who already fought in the UFC and came back– the way she’s grown over the years has been really impressive.” She also mentioned Montana Stewart, “I’ve trained a bit with Montana Stewart. To see after training with her and how talented she has gotten really excited me.”
VanZant also informs Helwani that her controversial tweet about fighting for the 125 title was not completely unsolicited.
My next fight is against the winner of the 125 division Ultimate Fighter. Don’t blink.
— Paige VanZant (@PaigeVanzantUFC) November 5, 2017
Paige says that her team and the UFC discussed a possible title shot against the winner of TUF 26, though nothing ever materialized. “I did tweet that!,” PVZ exclaimed. VanZant says that there was some talk behind-the-scenes that got her thinking. She says that the energy at UFC 217 and watching former opponent Rose Namajunas capture the strawweight title got her excited for the potential bout. However, VanZant is focused on her opponent on January 14, who is rumored to be Jessica-Rose Clark.
If Paige was in the TUF House, who would you have liked to see her matched up against?