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UFC Phenom Paige VanZant Is More Than a Pretty Face

The promising strawweight shares how she's trained for her upcoming bout this month.

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The story of UFC fighter Paige VanZant is the classic “Is the pretty girl really that good?” tale. Earlier this year, the blond bombshell signed an individual sponsorship with Reebok after just one UFC fight. M&F recently caught up with VanZant, where she revealed how she’s been training for biggest fight of her burgeoning career.

“Alongside regular MMA training, I’ve incorporated CrossFit and a lot more weight training and endurance training,” says VanZant. “I can do four practices a day, two of them technique and two more hardcore. Other days will be sparring days and you don’t want to do too much other than sparring because it’s really hard on your body.”

"12 Gauge" Is Locked and Loaded

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VanZant AKA “12 Gauge” trained in Sacramento, California as part of Team Alpha Male to prepare for her highly anticipated fight against Felice Herrig at UFC Fight Night.

“We switch it up every day but I always train two times a day, “ says VanZant, “Doing really intense workouts is something you have to do to get ready for a fight.”

As for VanZant’s favorite training style, she chooses weight training because she foresees making big gains in the gym.

“Weight training is more of a challenge because it’s new to me,” says VanZant. “I can push myself to lift more weight or get more reps and it’s something that I can see myself progressing in. My favorite exercise is the squat clean.”

Pumping iron is new to VanZant because her athletic background is in dancing. Her dance prowess includes ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop.

“I love to incorporate dance when I can and ballet is very athletic; it makes your muscles long and lean,” says VanZant. “I was passionate about dancing for so long that I can’t just let it go.”

In conjunction with an intense and varied training regimen, VanZant eats clean and healthy -- her favorite meal to cook is chicken curry.

“I love cooking so I can take different recipes and make them healthier,” she says. “I don’t eat fast food but I do treat myself. My excuse is that I’m young and I can handle eating unhealthy.”

VanZant’s stardom was supposed to begin on the reality fighting show The Ultimate Fighter, but she was turned away because she was only 20-years-old and the minimum age to be on the show is 21, due to the availability of alcohol in the house. She wound up winning her UFC debut match in the fall of 2014 and now she’s ranked number 11 in her division, looking to move up the ranks and prove she’s in the UFC to stay.

“This fight is the biggest of my career and it would mean the world to me to win,” says VanZant. “I’m definitely the underdog, which is fine since I’m used to being the underdog.”

For someone who just turned 21, VanZant has a pretty lofty goal in the UFC.

“The ultimate goal is to win the belt.”

Paige VanZant squares up against Felice Herrig (#8) April 18 on UFC Fight Night at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. 

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