Paige VanZant was a mess. After the first round, she looked up at the big screen and observed her face covered in blood. It didn’t jar her at all. In fact, she let out a tiny crease of a smile.
“I think it’s awesome,” VanZant told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I don’t know. I thought it was awesome. I was just looking to see how bad the cut was or where it was, because I wasn’t really sure. I saw it was under my eye, so it was good to go for the next five rounds or four rounds.”
VanZant went on to fall to Rose Namajunas via fifth-round submission in the main event of UFC Fight Night 80 last month. But she ended up with more praise than anything. VanZant, one of the UFC’s top female prospects, got beaten and battered for the better part of five rounds, but kept going. She escaped countless submissions and continued to push ahead.
The talk afterward was two-fold — how good Namajunas is and how damn tough VanZant showed herself to be.
“I really didn’t expect that much support,” VanZant said. “I thought I embarrassed myself out there and I put on an embarrassing performance. But then afterward I had all these positive articles. I was reading all these positive things after the fight. It felt really good, especially after taking a loss not to take a ton of criticism for it. It was really neat that I still had a lot of fans come forward and my stock grew even after a loss.”
VanZant (6-2) has never faced anything like that. Blood was everywhere after the first five minutes of the fight. It definitely affected her, she said.
“Especially because we did go to the ground a lot, I couldn’t see at all,” VanZant said. “And the blood completely filled my ears. I was cleaning blood out of my ears for three weeks after the fight. So I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t see anything. No excuses. But yeah — a lot of blood.”
VanZant is still just 21 years old. She hopes to get back into the Octagon as soon as she can. Coming into the bout with Namajunas, she had won three straight in the UFC. There is still plenty of promise and last month she showed off a little something different, too.
“I have a no-give-up attitude,” VanZant said. “It didn’t surprise me in that sense, but it was definitely a good test.”