Paige VanZant lost her closely-contested Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship debut on a decision to professional boxer Britain Hart, claiming at least one of her rival’s teeth and a mixed reaction before revealing her bruised face.
UFC fighter Mike Perry and pornstar Kendra Lust were among the star-studded crowd in Florida, where Instagram sensation VanZant performed creditably on her bow as her new promotion’s biggest star, winning the final round of the five with a late flurry.
Little-known scrapper Hart, who entered the bout with a record of two defeats from three fights in the discipline, had been involved in a fiery weigh-in with VanZant and was ecstatic in the ring after the verdict, screaming into the microphone while insisting she was “not a person.”
“I’m a f*cking feeling, and all of you guys are going to feel it,” she bizarrely told the arena, having been told to “stay humble” by VanZant as the pair embraced following the fight.
“Bec Rawlings knocked my teeth back at BKFC 2. Paige VanZant, you knocked my teeth out. But [the] good thing [is that] sharks regrow their teeth.
“This isn’t to my haters – this is not to the people who don’t believe in me. This is not for the people who said Paige VanZant is going to win. This is for the people who said I could.”
VanZant covered her face as she left the KnuckleMania event with husband Austin Vanderford, and revealed her post-fight markings to her following of more than 2.7 million on Instagram.
Feeling bad for Paige VanZant… Landed more strikes at a higher percentage and finished really strong🤜🤛 what else can you do? She deserved the win every bit as much as that trash can she fought tonight.
— Adam Westcott (@AdamWestcott1) February 6, 2021
Not sure that the BKFC was ready for their new show dog Vanzant to lose that one.
— T_Rob (@robisc69) February 6, 2021
The only thing left for paige vanzant is only fans
— BigMo (@BigMoNaeDough) February 6, 2021
A set of stitches under one eye was the most noticeable damage she appeared to have sustained as she repeated her post-fight advice to Hart by writing: “Humble in victory. Humble in defeat.”
Welterweight Perry, who attended the bout with girlfriend Latory Gonzalez, told VanZant: “God bless, champ.”
Writing on Twitter, Perry joked: “I’ll fight Paige Vanzant bare knuckle for $250,000? Otherwise it’s not worth the risk.”
Bellator fighter and fellow Instagram pin-up Valerie Loureda offered her love to VanZant, who was confirmed to have left the UFC in August.
Reaction to the fight ranged from viewers impressed by VanZant’s performance to others who felt she should retire after failing to register a first win in more than two years.
Others mocked the model, who is known for her racey photoshoots with Vanderford on social media, by saying that she should create an account on adult subscription site OnlyFans – a move that she is regularly asked to make by fans of her looks.
I guess it’s back to thirst-trapping & supplement promos on Instagram for Paige VanZant.
— CU•NY (@ClemsonNyC) February 6, 2021
the only surprising thing about paige vanzant losing, is people being surprised that paige vanzant lost
— Barmelo Xanthony (@imbonez) February 6, 2021
It was a close match but just not enough activity from vanzant
— Trevor Ragin (@Ragin_Official) February 6, 2021
VanZant seized upon the publicity she received during the week by announcing the launch of her own subscription fan site, initially promising “exclusive content” including behind-the-scenes training insights.
“What a welcome to Bare Knuckle Boxing for Paige VanZant, thinking that wasn’t the easy check she was planning on grabbing,” said one.
“What an odd descent for her from her early UFC days. So much hype behind her and now here we are watching her take a loss at KnuckleMania?”
Brit Hart said she’s never been hit as hard as Paige VanZant hit her, and she’s been hit by grown men. Seeing as she had a tooth knocked out, I believe her. #KnuckleMania
— Ryan Hobbs (@RyanHobbsMMA) February 6, 2021
I never want to hear another negative WORD about Paige VanZant out of anyone who’s seriously watching BKFC right now
— Amy (@Aye_Scotty) February 6, 2021
Paige Vanzant got beat up tonight and I’m just not okay with her bare knuckle fighting lol she’s too damn pretty
— Miguel Blanco (@ImMiguelBlanco) February 6, 2021
The 26-year-old had claimed that she received ten times more with her new promotion than she did when fighting for the UFC, reportedly collecting around $400,000 for the showdown.
“I thought VanZant had a great showing,” reacted one admirer. “She came in and faced one of the top contenders in Bare knuckle boxing and showed she can pound with her.
“If there had been one more round, I think VanZant would have taken it.”
Paige vanzant might as well hang it up
— Mrindicud93 (@keeauntreew) February 6, 2021
Vanzant get your bag sweetie,you showed real ❤ in there. Must have been so hard not to trip her & get her in a choke or knee her to the stomach. Your muscles just don’t forget those memories. I wanna see you come back & win.Great 1st showing on a new platform #BareknuckleBoxing
— Coley (@_ColeyRose_) February 6, 2021
somebody should have scored that for Paige VanZant. hell, Hart faded in the final rounds like Conor McGregor was her cardio coach. #Knucklemania
— JASON EDGE (@Doubt_Evrything) February 6, 2021
The commentary team agreed as they looked back at the closing stages. “Great exchanges, right there,” they said.
“She finally started opening up, she finally found the distance on the inside, just like she thought she could do the entire time.”
Hart also had words of praise. “I loved Paige VanZant,” she admitted.
“She was an idol to me because she was a pretty girl who could break the limits. I really wanted to knock her out in the third round.
“She’s tough, she’s tough. No disrespect to her, but she’s tough as hell. She’s tough, she’s durable – she really is.
“I’m not the most technical boxer but I was not going to let Paige VanZant out-work me.
What a welcome to Bare Knuckle Boxing for Paige VanZant, thinkin that wasn’t the easy check she was planning on grabbing. What an odd descent for her from her early UFC days, so much hype behind her and now here we are watching her take an L at #KnuckleMania?! 🧐 #BKFCpic.twitter.com/E5GpusrVbu
— Mitch Westphal (@MitchWestphal) February 6, 2021
I thought Vanzant had a great showing. She came in and faced one of the top contenders in #BareknuckleBoxing and showed she can pound with her, if there had been one more round I think Vanant would have taken it. #KnuckleMania
— Coley (@_ColeyRose_) February 6, 2021
I really could not tell you why Paige VanZant decided to take up bare knuckle boxing.
— Beau Rehner (@BeauRehner) February 6, 2021
“I hope the boss man fixes my teeth again. That would be nice. I started off with crooked teeth, then Bec helped get them really straight and Paige, credit to her.
“I’ve never been hit as hard as as Paige VanZant hits. I’ll give her that, so everyone got it right whoever said that girl’s got power. They were not lying: that’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit.”
Adult performer Lust – real name Michele Anne Mason – told VanZant: “Great fight – respect.”
Paige VanZant was a regional-level talent pushed to the moon by UFC brass because they knew how horny and sad the MMA fanbase is.
— Matt Saccaro (@MattSaccaro) February 6, 2021
It was a loss but this was Paige VanZant’s first ever Bare Knuckle fight, and she impressed me. I still think she should give all this up and head to @WWE. She’ll be a major superstar there no question. #KnuckleMania
— JohnnyZ 🏴☠️ #ThankYouKairi 🏴☠️ (@JWrestlingV2) February 6, 2021
This loss doesn’t at all mean the VanZant signing for #bkfc is a failure. This, and even Malignaggi’s loss, prove the transition into #bareknuckle is not easy. The learning curve is quite legit in that first fight. It’s very much a unique fight and scoring style #KnuckleMania
— Jason Burgos (@CheapSeatsChat) February 6, 2021
Thanking organizers, she added: “Great fights and always appreciate your kindness. Can’t wait to see Paige VanZant in there again.”
Manager Malki Kawa shared a photo of VanZant and Vanderford in the locker room before the fight and told the fighter: “You’re a beast.”
Looking at VanZant’s bruises, Bellator featherweight Arlene Blencowe said: “They’ll come up nicely. Congratulations on stepping in there and putting on a show.”
Hart and VanZant had taken part in a painfully wooden stunt in a post-fight ring to announce their encounter last year, and there was another strange theatrical moment for the winner this time as one of her rivals climbed between the ropes without any apparent challenge.
Hart squirted water over her enemy’s head before labeling her “trash” to the audibly confused crowd.
Britain Hart just won a decision over Paige VanZant and then declared: “I am not a person. I am a feeling.” So yeah you could say I got my money’s worth from this event.
— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) February 6, 2021
Paige VanZant has to be one of the most disappointing stories in MMA, right? Most watched prospect in women’s MMA, to Dancing with the Stars, to getting out-worked by a nobody in a bare knuckle boxing match?
— Matt Saccaro (@MattSaccaro) February 6, 2021
VanZant almost got her out of there. She probably did way better than anyone expected
— Angelo Boscacci (@Boscacci6) February 6, 2021
“That girl doesn’t have a name and I’m not going to call her out,” she seethed.
“There are levels to this sh*t, and it’s not getting in [the ring] and taking someone else’s shine.
“That’s called garbage. Garbage tries to take other people’s shine.”