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The 22-year-old UFC star Paige VanZant has an impressive range of athletic abilities. She’s a breakout contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and is now tearing it up on Dancing With the Stars. We had a chance to speak with Paige on her experience with the show this far, as well as the training for her main gig as an MMA fighter.
You’re a couple of weeks in on Dancing With the Stars. How has this experience been for you to this point?
The experience has been really fun. To have this opportunity and trying something new for a while has been really cool.
You had mentioned that you’re willing to accept a fight while you’re doing this project. How would that affect your training?
Yeah, during this I have been able to train as well. It’s been a really good balance. My coaches are really great out here in L.A. and I just let them know whenever I want to train, and I can get in the gym. So, Urijah really set me up so that I can train the entire time that I’m on Dancing With the Stars. And if I make it to the finale, I would still have a good 6-8 weeks before I would have a fight.
So how do you balance the training that you normally do with preparation for the show?
You know, out here I don’t have my team—my team is in Sacramento, so I’ve been able to work out at a local gym and I have some great coaches here, and then I dance at night so it’s a lot of really good exercise.
As far as diet goes, how would you say it differs from when you’re in camp, and when you’re off on a project like DWTS?
For me, it stays the same. I like to keep a consistent diet going so I know what I’m eating and I always know how much I weigh, because I do have to weigh a certain amount when I weigh in at Strawweight. I have to weigh in at 115. The diet for me is pretty consistent, and then when I’m actually cutting weight for a fight that’s when everything changes. But throughout this whole process I’m keeping everything the same.
I understand that you’ve had a dancing background. Were you comfortable stepping into this project? Or were you still going out of your comfort zone.
It’s definitely out of my comfort zone—it’s a really neat, fun process. I’ve never done anything like this at all. It’s really cool, so it’s definitely out of my comfort zone—dancing, and not fighting, in front of a crowd—but it’s been a neat experience.
What would you say your favorite style of dance is?
The salsa. It was a really fun routine, and now we’re learning the Paso Doble, which is definitely a lot harder and definitely something I’m not used to.
You’re sort of considered the favorite to win this season. How do you feel about your chances?
I feel good, I mean I’m in it for the experience. It would be amazing to win the whole thing, but I’m in it for the experience. Just to enjoy every second of it.
So after DWTS, could you talk about what training will be like during the preparation for a fight?
Fighting camp is like 6-8 weeks of intense training where you don’t do anything except focus on your fight. You stay in the gym all day, you get your diet correct, and you become the best athlete you can be in those 6-8 weeks.
Say you have an off day. What are some of your favorite things to do?
Some of my favorite things are to go hiking—I love to hike and I love to be outdoors and take my dog for hikes and to be with nature—but I also like to do fun athletic things, like yoga classes, pilates, or do girly things. Like on days off I like to go get my nails done.
You mentioned in an interviews after week 2 of DWTS that you’re not just the fighter, there’s a girly side to you too. What does that mean to you?
Yeah—during this whole project I want to show the world that I’m more than just the fighter. I had almost four fights last year, I just want to show everyone that I’m so much more than just locked in a cage; that fighters have a lot of other very good attributes. We’re not just the violent side that you see. I want to show them that you can do anything that you want to.