Despite only boasting what could be describing as an average record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the 26-year-old VanZant has become one of the faces of the female fight game.
Her profile has grown considerably in recent years owing to being featured on the US version of ‘Dancing With The Stars’, as well as stripping off for the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
However, VanZant has apparently being increasingly of the opinion that her UFC pay-packet doesn’t quite match her profile outside of the Octagon and appears keen to demonstrate her value to the organization ahead of an upcoming showdown with the 9-1 Brazilian Amanda Ribas.
It was reported by ESPN that VanZant will take on the surging Ribas on July 11. A location hasn’t been officially confirmed, though a post on VanZant’s Instagram stated that she will be “coming to an island near you,” in an apparent reference to Dana White’s novel ‘Fight Island’ concept.
The UFC president has remained steadfastly tight-lipped as to the specifics of ‘Fight Island’, but it is thought that the idea will become a reality this summer and is designed as a method to have fighters based within the United States compete against athletes from outside the country as a means to bypass travel restrictions into the country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Injury has kept VanZant out of the cage since a January 2019 win against Rachael Ostovich. She was scheduled to fight Ribas in March before being forced to withdraw with an arm injury, with the Brazilian fighting and defeating Rando Markos in VanZant’s place.
The fight will represent that final bout on VanZant’s UFC contract, after which she has suggested she will test the free agency market where it is likely she will receive interest from other MMA leagues. However, VanZant’s growing reputation – coupled with an impressive performance against Ribas – could force the UFC’s hand in handing her an improved deal.
“I want to prove my worth,” VanZant said last month. “You truly can’t find what your value is until you’re a free agent. When you’re locked into a contract, the only people that can set your value are the people that you’re signed with.”
“Change is very hard, but I’m looking for the best opportunity for my future and I don’t know what that is,” she explained.
“I think it’s going to take negotiation with the UFC and negotiations with other organizations to know who’s going to offer me the brighter future. It might come down to other factors outside just a dollar figure. It’s really about who’s going to propel me to the best of their ability.”
VanZant garnered significant attention online in recent months by posting a series of semi-nude photographs alongside her husband, Bellator welterweight prospect Austin Vanderford – and has admitted that the money she receives from Instagram endorsements outstrips that of her UFC deal.
“If I were to stop everything I do outside of fighting and just fight, I would be at a loss. By a long shot,” VanZant said in 2019.
And it seems likely that if Dana White is unwilling to cut the star an improved check, there is a realistic scenario where VanZant lines up alongside her husband as the latest UFC refugee to move to Bellator in pursuit of a sturdier salary.