While VanZant and Rousey both share blonde hair, a photogenic look and a wealth of talent, that’s where the similarities start to wane. Besides competing in a different weight class, VanZant is enjoying an initial burst of popularity, including an official Reebok sponsorship despite having only two UFC fights. It wasn’t until Rousey came over to the UFC following the purchase of Strikeforce that her popularity really took off.
VanZant has all the tools to join Rousey and male fighters like Conor McGregor as the UFC’s next big star. She took the fight to Herrig from the opening bell and did not stop. VanZant unleashed a torrent of ground-and-pound that overwhelmed Herrig and made her look like the amateur rather than the wily veteran Herrig was supposed to be going into that fight.
Paige VanZant has become one of the focal points of the UFC marketing machine.
In her most recent outing, VanZant (5-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) dominated Felice Herrig (10-6 MMA, 1-1 UFC) to earn a unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 15.
The win silenced many of the the 21-year-old’s critics, who believed her marketing push by the UFC was unearned. In addition to faith from the UFC, Reebok has backed VanZant, signing the strawweight contender to a sponsorship deal.
The hate doesn’t necessarily run deep among her peers. Many of the female fighters on the UFC’s roster say they understand the attention paid to VanZant.
VanZant isn’t quite ready for a title shot yet. Judging by how current strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk demolished Carla Esparza to capture the belt, VanZant’s ground-and-pound style might not match up well with the champ’s striking. A convincing victory over a Rose Namajunas or Jessica Penne would make a title shot for VanZant much more realistic and less like UFC President Dana White is trying to rush his new golden (haired) goose onto the big stage.
In the video via USA TODAY Sports, some of the UFC’s top fighters explain their feelings on VanZant, the Reebok sponsorship and her positioning within the UFC.