Dana White Says Paige VanZant 'Should Definitely Test Free Agency' After UFC 251

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2020

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: Paige VanZant reacts after her submission loss to Amanda Ribas in their flyweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

It wouldn't appear UFC president Dana White is desperate to re-sign Paige VanZant as her contract with the company expires.

VanZant submitted to an armbar in the first round of her fight with Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 on Saturday.

After the event, White didn't exactly go out of his way to convince VanZant she should sign a new deal.

"I like Paige," he said during his post-UFC 251 press conference, per MMA Fighting's Steven Marrocco. "It's like [Curtis] Blaydes, when Blaydes fought last. When you talk all that stuff, 'I'm not being paid enough,' and fighting inconsistently, one time in the last year, injuries, and then got smoked in the first round of the fight, she should definitely test free agency."

White was referencing comments VanZant made to MMA Fighting's Damon Martin. She said she wanted to see how much she could earn on MMA's open market and reflected on how much she received from her UFC deal:

"I've added up all the money I've made in the UFC over six years, and I could have just had a regular job with the same pay. I'm so thankful for everything the UFC has done for me, the platform they've given me. This is nothing against the UFC. But the contract I signed is what I signed and I know I need to honor it. That's why I'm fighting this last fight out and I was never trying to break it early.

"It's important to fight this fight out, honor my contract and then say listen this is my value and this is what I need to be paid to make it worth it."

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The 26-year-old isn't exactly riding a positive wave of momentum into free agency, though. Injuries have limited her to three fights since 2016, and Saturday's defeat means she has dropped three of her last four bouts.

The profile VanZant has built outside of the Octagon could help her still receive the kind of contract she believes is more in line with what she deserves.

VanZant competed in the 22nd season of Dancing with the Stars and finished runner-up. She also advanced to the finals in a celebrity tournament on the Food Network series Chopped in 2017.

Her future may not be in MMA, either. She told TMZ Sports in January 2018 that a move to WWE interested her.

Ronda Rousey is the most famous UFC star to cross over into WWE, but Shayna Baszler illustrates how a transition to professional wrestling could be a fruitful one for VanZant.

Baszler owns a 15-11 record in MMA and dropped her last four fights before UFC released her in June 2015. Her friendship with Rousey overshadowed most of what she did inside the cage.

Upon ditching MMA for wrestling—and eventually signing with WWE—Baszler has seen her star grow far larger, however.

Now that she's a free agent, VanZant has the opportunity to weigh all of her options and consider whether joining WWE or another wrestling promotion is her best path forward.

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