Paige VanZant will make her BKFC debut in November against an opponent to be determined.
VanZant’s new contract with the bare-knuckle promotion is a four-fight deal that’s worth over $1 million with incentives, BKFC President David Feldman confirmed after an initial report from ESPN.
“It tells people we’re serious,” Feldman told MMA Fighting about the offer. “We’re not out there throwing money around stupidly and making bad decisions. We spend money on things we think can help the company grow, and Paige VanZant, with 4 million followers on her social media accounts, can help us grow.”
Feldman is no stranger to offering big money for proven commodities. Earlier this year, he floated a deal in excess of $20 million to convince Mike Tyson to go bare-knuckle. Tyson eventually signed with social media platform Triller for an exhibition bout against Roy Jones Jr., which is expected to take place in November.
VanZant announced the lucrative deal Wednesday on her official Instagram account after posting a picture of her signing a contract. At 2.7 million followers, her Instagram page is her biggest social media presence and puts her well into influencer status. She’s previously said she makes more money for social media posts than fighting. That’s likely changing now.
VanZant invited Feldman onto a live chat Wednesday to celebrate the news.
“I knew where my heart was along this whole journey,” she told the promoter. “Of course, you had to deal with my managers, which I’m sure was really fun, but my heart was in it.”
Feldman expects VanZant to compete at 125 pounds, where she competed most recently in the UFC, and added he’s recently signed two dozen female fighters – many of whom also compete at 125 pounds – that could provide opposition in the near future. He teased a marquee signing of a former women’s featherweight boxing champ, but declined to reveal any names.
VanZant’s UFC career ended on a sour note after a first-round submission loss to Amanda Ribas at UFC 251, which marked her return to the octagon after an extended layoff due to a persistent arm injury that’s required several surgeries. She made public her desire for a raise and targeted a quick comeback after her release from UFC contract; UFC President Dana White dissed her demands after her loss to Ribas and said she should pursue free agency.
In the BKFC ring, Feldman plans to build VanZant with matchups that more favorably showcase her skills.
“I think she was not set up in bad positions, but not set up in the perfect conditions in the past, and we’re going to set her up for success,” he said. “I can’t throw Paige into the lion’s den the first fight. We have to do something that’s going to get her comfortable with this, and then the competition is going to get stiffer. But at the beginning, I think it’s a great way to build her.
“She can fight. She definitely has good hands. She has good knockouts under her belt. At the end of this deal, we’ve hopefully built her up as a superstar and we can extend with her.”