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Paige VanZant signs bare knuckle fighting deal, turns down Bellator


In a surprise move, former UFC strawweight and once hopeful WWE signee Paige VanZant is leaving MMA for a career in bare knuckle fighting instead.

First reported by ESPN's Ariel Helwani, VanZant has signed a exclusive four fight deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), turning down a contract offer from front runner and once expected future home, Bellator MMA, where her husband currently fights.

Helwani reported the deal is worth more than $1 million over the life of the deal and also includes incentives. 

The 26-year-old lost the final fight on her UFC contract in July and had spoken prior to the fight about wanting to test free agency with Dana White suggesting that would be a good idea. She was 5-4 over nearly six years in the Octagon, fighting just three times since 2017 due to repeated injuries.

During her 13 fight career, she has just two wins by KO or TKO.

VanZant had been linked to WWE in the past, telling TMZ in 2018 she was "definitely interested" in going there, saying she loved it and had the personality for it. She also reportedly was discussing a SummerSlam appearance with the company in 2016.