The end of Paige VanZant's run as a UFC strawweight was tough for the 23-year-old, who competed with difficult weight cuts alongside stiff competition. According to VanZant, it was even harder than she let on. In a recent interview with BBC's Newsbeat, she said she developed an eating disorder on her various treks down to 115 pounds.
"I was having different issues with myself and my body. I was giving myself an eating disorder to make the weight," she said. "I recently went up to the flyweight division which is 10 pounds heavier, which is a huge difference."
Weight cutting—a practice in which athletes lose massive amounts of weight ahead of contests in order to compete in lighter divisions—is rife in MMA. While the majority of cuts are without incident, a number of fighters die each year because of complications.
VanZant has previously detailed how difficult her cuts to 115 pounds were and how they impacted her ability to compete and even her family.
Speaking with the Players' Tribune, she discussed how she prayed to not die ahead of her December 2016 bout with Michelle Waterson at UFC Fight Night in Sacramento, California:
The UFC, to this point, has not seen one of its athletes die from a weight cut, but there have been some troubling situations. Ahead of her flyweight debut, VanZant was standing alongside UFC middleweight Uriah Hall when his kidneys shut down because of weight cutting. That confirmed to her she made the right move.
"I was at a fight where a fellow UFC fighter, Uriah Hall, was cutting weight, and he pushed himself just to the brink of death," she told Newsbeat. "He had kidney failure and started seizing in the hallway right in front of me. It's because of that I'm like, 'I can't do this anymore.'"
Even though she has her weight-cutting troubles alleviated for now, she still has a tough road ahead of her. During her flyweight debut opposite Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 14, she suffered a broken forearm and is recovering with the aid of a titanium plate.
Still, VanZant seems to be looking forward to returning to the Octagon and getting back in the win column.
"The biggest concern for me is just getting the injury healed as soon as possible, so I can start training again," she said.