Despite the long period during which President Dana White adamantly claimed that women would never step foot inside the UFC octagon, it is now about four and a half years since the first women's UFC fight. In that fight, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche had a decent single round war, which Rousey won via first round arm-bar submission. Dana White had come around, as the event with the first women's fight in the biggest MMA promotion had a decent PPV buy-rate (450,000, which is not great but definitely not terrible). As hindsight now tells us, women were from that moment on in MMA to stay.
What would follow was Ronda Rousey arm-baring her way toward becoming one of the biggest stars and one of the most significant pay-per-view draws the promotion has ever had. Of course if you have attractive women participating in a sport with a primarily male fan base, at some point dudes are going to start to notice and drool over the eye candy. Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate may be the most widely known names in women's MMA due to their rivalry, and of course Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes are up there as well for knocking out Rousey. For the purpose of eye candy however there is no name bigger than Paige "12 Guage" VanZant.
We aren't huge fans of the phrase "too cute to be a fighter" as it is somewhat disrespectful to someone who has put a ton of work into an immensely difficult career. In this case however, It is aggravating to see this gorgeous woman after some of her fights. She's a warrior and as such gives it her all every time she steps into the octagon. More than once, she's ended up looking like she lost a fight with a lawnmower. As fans, it's hard to watch for many reasons.
Here are fifteen beautiful shots of Paige VanZant that make us wish she'd stop getting hit in the face for a living.
17 Workout Gear
Whether you diligently follow women's MMA or not, Instagram is a great way to get acquainted with all the eye candy in the sport. While there are some women in martial arts that look "rough", there are also plenty who are gorgeous. Angela Magana, Gina Carano, Miesha Tate, and Michelle Waterson are just a few, and of course who can forget the subject of this list? Paige's Instagram has a wide variety of themes, including whatever adventures she gets up to, her modelling shoots, some promotional stuff, and thankfully plenty of pictures of her in workout gear. Is there anything in the world more magnificent than a beautiful woman in yoga gear? Well, oxygen, and maybe clean water, but beyond those things necessary to sustain life, we can't think of much else.
16 She Looks Good in Shorts
We've said plenty about this gorgeous fighter's looks and her activities outside of the octagon so far, but very little about her actual fights. We'll start with some of the notable losses just to get those out of the way. After going 2-0 in her first two, Paige was given her first defeat at Invicta 4 at the hands of Tecia Torres, who now competes in the UFC Strawweight division as well. VanZant's more recent losses were to "Thug" Rose Namajunas, who outclassed her for four rounds back in December 2015 and finished her in the fifth via rear naked choke. In late 2016, Paige was again defeated by RNC, this time tapping out to Michelle Waterson in the first round.
15 And Now from the Front
As we pointed out in our last last entry, her two most recent wins have come via chokes from very gifted wrestlers, Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson. While we wouldn't say she's a slouch in terms of her ground game as she is a blue belt and can clearly grapple, she's outmatched on the canvas by these two superior grapplers. On her feet however, she's closer to the top of the division. One of her most impressive showings in the octagon was her "performance of the night" winning knockout of Bec Rawlings in August 2016, when she caught Rawlings with a switch kick to the chin and then finished her off with some ground and pound.
14 Nice Dress...and Everything Else
Here's a shot of Paige looking like the last thing she does for a living is fight. Many fans forget that she has actually hinted that she would be willing to fight former Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey if the latter was willing to meet her at 125 lbs. This informal announcement came shortly after an apparent confrontation in which Ronda took offense to Paige congratulating Holly Holm after her knockout victory over Rousey. Stories like this show us that while Ronda is a gifted fighter and did a lot for the women's side of mixed martial arts, she acts like a catty, high school bully with a wild superiority complex. With regard to the idea of Paige scrapping the former champ at Flyweight, Paige wins unless Rousey scores a takedown.
13 An Angel That Will Kick You in the Head
We don't know what is more exciting, the angelic looking wings in this shot, or Paige sporting a devilish look in her eyes. Given her bubbly, smiling and generally happy personality (outside of the octagon, of course), maybe the wings were the right choice. While all the women in MMA are pretty fit and generally have athletic, toned bodies, we need to call attention to this woman's immaculate core. Obviously the first thing people notice when they see her is her cute face, but the rest of her is virtually perfect as well. It's pictures like this that make us more than a little upset that we have to see her mangled and bloody after some of her fights.
12 Is She Wearing a Choker?
Here's Paige VanZant channeling her inner teenager. Call us old fashioned, but aren't these stretchy choker necklaces basically the calling card of the girl in tenth grade with daddy issues who is way too eager to attend the football team's parties? Whether we're right about that assessment or not, when you see a woman wearing one of these it is safe to assume you have a shot at getting to know her a little better, so play your cards right. In the case of Paige however, we'll shut down our mockery of her fashion choices now, because if we make her mad she may show up one day and kick us in the jaw one by one. While we'd like to meet her, that would probably not be the best way to do so.
11 Great Legs
So we're roughly in the middle of this article now and we should probably mention that there is a rumor that Paige may be retiring soon. She's only 23 now, and while she has plenty to learn if she wants to reach top five status within the Strawweight division, she has a strong martial arts background and a very respectable amount of natural athleticism. The rumour of her possible retirement started circulating online in early 2017. First there was some speculation that she may have left Team Alpha Male, and then one of her coaches actually implied an early retirement could be in the works. On the one hand, we'd like to see if she can take her career to the next level, but we'd also like to see her gorgeous face stay intact. Only time will tell.
10 Ready for the Beach
While being this attractive has helped her star power, not everyone is happy about that. Numerous people including fighter-turned-commentator Brendan Schaub, to whom we can all look for a brutally honest opinion on any MMA topic, has suggested that fighters like Paige and Sage Northcutt are where they are because they are marketable and attractive. He even went so far as to say the two don't belong in UFC. Paige is 4-2 in the promotion and Sage is 3-2, so they aren't completely incapable, but at the same time they do get a lot more press and exposure than other more talented fighters. Regardless of this criticism, that is one heck of a beach body.
9 Great Smile
We'd love to just repeat the words "wow, Paige VanZant is so damn good looking" for the rest of this article, but we should probably drop some information about her career and life instead. In terms of her dating life, because we know you all want to know if you have a shot (and you don't), she dated Cody Garbrandt. He went on to become the UFC Bantamweight champion back in 2015, but they split up because they were too busy for a serious relationship. More recently she started dating MMA fighter Austin Vanderford, who is 2-0 in his career so far and won two NAIA wrestling championships.
8 Dancing with the Stars
In 2016, VanZant was a contestant on the 22nd season of the show Dancing with the Stars. Why is that show popular? We may never know. But on another topic, who would have guessed that the footwork required to be successful in mixed martial arts would translate to some comfort and competence on the dance floor? In all honesty, most fans probably had some idea about how she'd do. She did quite well on the show and ended up making it to the final episode, getting named the runner up for that season. There was an unconfirmed rumour that she dated her dance partner Mark Ballas, but she never gave a definite answer on that topic.
7 Interesting Way to Get Dressed
Most women might tell you that the agreed-upon way to dress oneself is that pants go on before shoes. Evidently, based on this shot, Paige is a fan of challenging the paradigm. When you're this talented and easy on the eyes, you can dress yourself however you want. Actually the more we look at it, the more we dig the boots and underwear look. While she's been competing at Strawweight (115 lbs) since the start of her career back in 2012, Paige went up a weight class to Flyweight (125 lbs) last month. The inaugural champion of that division will be crowned as part of The Ultimate Fighter 26. Paige's first fight at Flyweight will be against Jessica Eye, a veteran who is riding a four fight losing streak right now. The bout will take place at UFC 216 in early October.
6 Flawless Body
It is impossible to mention Paige VanZant these days and only talk about MMA. Earlier we mentioned her impressive experience on Dancing with the Stars, which greatly amplified her name recognition. Since her time on that show, she has had offers to be in a movie and to work with WWE. She was initially cast to play a role in the movie Kickboxer: Retaliation which featured Mike Tyson and Jean-Claude Van Damme, but decided that was a bad idea, opting instead to put 100% of her efforts into preparing for her fight with Bec Rawlings. In 2016 she also got offered the chance to have her WWE debut at Summerslam, but declined in favour of training.
Here's Paige dressed up as Reese Witherspoon's character from the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. We have nothing but good things to say about that actress and the role she played in that film, but if we're playing the game "who wore it better", we'll take Paige over Reese any day. We aren't quite sure how a rodent costume ever became the calling card symbol of hot women, but we aren't going to think about that in too much depth. We'd much rather just focus on the fact that the look works. But then again Paige could probably wear a muddy tarp and still look pretty unbelievable.
2 Intense Look
We've already mentioned her toned core (one of the obvious perks of training like a fighter) but we'll point it out again because it's too incredible not to call attention to. Many fans don't know but her nickname "12 Gauge" is a moniker she got through Facebook with the help of her father. Before her first professional fight back in June of 2012, she posted on her page that she was going to need an awesome fight nickname, and then took ideas from her friends. She read the list to her father, who decided that "12 Gauge" fit her best, given that she grew up in a small town and most of her activities were outdoors such as hunting and fishing.
A red bra and partially unzipped pants. There isn't much that could make this shot any better. Well, wearing nothing at all would, obviously, but those kinds of images sadly aren't featured on our site. As we mentioned, Paige was somewhat of a Tomboy in her early days, and grew up doing "boy stuff", which got her bullied in high school. While she has some unpleasant memories of those times, she's made a fantastic life for herself, and chances are the girls who gave her a hard time in school are now miserable. So we can all kind of think of Paige as an example of what can happen when you disregard your haters, do your own thing and never give up.