Paige VanZant confident testing free agency after UFC 251: ‘My value doesn’t change whether I win or lose’

Nothing will stop Paige VanZant from testing the free agent market.

The UFC strawweight is determined to fight out her UFC contract and become a free agent after UFC 251 on July 11 in Abu Dhabi. VanZant (8-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) takes on Brazilian prospect Amanda Ribas in the opening bout of the pay-per-view main card. The fight with Ribas is the last bout on her UFC contract.

VanZant is excited for the future despite its uncertainty.

“I have my heart set and nobody is going to change my mind that I’m fighting my contract out,” VanZant told ESPN. “I don’t know where my future lies – I truly don’t. I think that’s kind of an exciting thing in my life. I’ve been with the UFC for six years now, and through this time I’m still – which is crazy – on the same contract before I fought Rose (Namajunas) at 22 years old, and I’m 26 now.

“So somehow, through injury, being on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ being on TV, work I’ve done throughout all of this, I’ve been on the exact same contract since I was 22. That’s the contract I signed since I was 22. But I just feel like a regular extension isn’t what I want. I want to prove my worth and my value and I want a brand new contract. I’m really excited to get the opportunity and really test the free agency because how do you know what your value is unless you can go test it among the other sharks?”

VanZant hasn’t competed since January 2019. Injuries and work outside the octagon have kept her from fighting. She said she’s 100 percent healthy and ready for July 11.

VanZant doesn’t know if she’ll fight again in the UFC after UFC 251. She’s unhappy with her current UFC contact and wants a bigger deal, whether it’s in the UFC or not.

“So I make $46,000 (to show) and (another) $46,000 (to win),” VanZant said. “I’m not going to hide that because everyone knows. I can make way more money than that just promoting brands on Instagram, and that should say something.

“Why would I step away from all the amazing success that I have? I made more money on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ than I have in my entire UFC career combined – every fight, every win, every bonus. I love fighting. It’s what I love to do, and for this fight I dropped every single sponsor. I haven’t posted anything on Instagram. Nothing matters to me except this fight and it’s a clean slate for me.”

The 26-year-old is confident stepping into free agency and considers herself a big free agent.

Depending on how her fight with Ribas plays out, VanZant could be on a two-fight winning streak or 1-3 in her last four bouts. It’s a big fight for VanZant, but she said she feels no pressure entering UFC 251 and thinks her free agent status won’t be affected by the result of the bout with Ribas.

“I truly do feel like my value doesn’t change whether I win or lose,” VanZant said. “I still have set myself up for success and I will still forever be Paige VanZant – but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight to die. This fight matters to me more than any fight in my entire career, so I’m putting it all out there.”

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