With move to flyweight, Paige VanZant confident she can avoid embarrassments in fights

ST. LOUIS Paige VanZant is looking at UFC Fight Night 124 as a fresh start, and it all begins with her change in weight class.VanZant (7-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) hasn’t appeared in the octagon for more than a year. She returns Sunday to fight Jessica-Rose Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), but this time things are different. Not only is “12 Gauge” older and wiser, but she also comes into the fight after a change in weight class and a change in training camp.
Ahead of UFC Fight Night 124, which takes place at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, VanZant parted ways with Team Alpha Male and settled in at Gracie Barra Portland. Moreover, she said good riddance to the women’s strawweight division in favor of a jump to flyweight.
Although it’s a fight-game cliche, VanZant is adamant her physical and mental state are at a peak previously unseen in her career.
“I feel like this the best I’ve ever felt going into a fight,” VanZant told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC Fight Night 124 open workouts. “The weight cut is what’s making all the difference. I feel amazing right now where I can actually go out there and have fun and show off some of the stuff I can do.
“The biggest difference is I’m going to go in there and feel good, honestly. I think I get to show off my skills. I’ve always been very athletic, and I’m going to show off my athletic capability a lot more now that I actually feel good going into the fight.”Under the guidance of Gracie Barra Portland head coach Fabiano Scherner, who is a UFC veteran and grappling standout, VanZant said her skills level has skyrocketed since her submission loss to Michelle Waterson at UFC on FOX 22 in December 2016. She believes the system with her new team has better suited her needs and given her a level of structure that was unavailable at Team Alpha Male during her stay.
“I feel like while I was Team Alpha Male, there was a lot of coach turnover,” VanZant said. “We had probably four of five head coaches while I was there, so I didn’t have any eyes on me 100 percent of the time, whereas now, Fabiano’s my coach for the whole last year. He can see the progress I’m making, he knows where I really need to step it up and things I need to work on, and areas I’m already pretty good at. So it’s always having those constant eyes on me that’s really going to be the difference.”
With the move to 125 pounds, VanZant will be fighting a different type of competition. Clark is an opponent who has fought as high as bantamweight in the past, and even missed weight by several pounds for a scheduled flyweight fight against Bec Rawlings at UFC Fight Night 121 in November.
VanZant said the difference in opponent makeup going from one division to another isn’t a concern. At 23, she is still finding the best method to maximize her physical attributes, but VanZant insisted being outmuscled isn’t going to be a concern at her new weight.
What VanZant is up against most, she said, is the same type of pressure that comes with all her fights. She’s been pushed hard by the UFC brass since she debuted with the organization and has had mixed results along the way. VanZant still is young, though, and said her priorities are set straight so that her best moments are still ahead.
“I’ve kind of put that pressure on myself in every single fight,” VanZant said. “I feel like every fight I have, there’s a different element of pressure going into it. Like, ‘I better win this fight because of my opponent.’ Or, ‘I better win this fight because I’m the main event.’ There’s always a lot of outside factors, but I think the biggest thing is I like to win and I want to go out there and put my best self forward and not have anymore embarrassments in fights.”For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.










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