Paige VanZant insists she's "not bitter" with Dana White, despite the UFC president’s brutal parting shot for the women's flyweight fighter.
VanZant is set to test the MMA free agency market after the final fight of her UFC contract ended in very inglorious fashion.
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Brazilian flyweight Amanda Ribas's first-round armbar submission victory over VanZant at UFC 251 continued a sorry run of form for the American.
VanZant (8-5), has lost four fight in her last six bouts since 2015, with injuries restricting her appearances in the Octagon.
The 26-year-old - who has some 2.6 million Instagram followers - recently commented about how underpaid she felt in the UFC.
It prompted a harsh response from White after the loss to Ribas at UFC 251.
“I like Paige,” White said during his post-UFC 251 press conference.
“When you talk all that stuff, 'I'm not being paid enough,' and fighting inconsistently, one time in the last year, injuries, and then got smoked in the first round of the fight, she should definitely test free agency.”
Vanzant says she feels let down by White's comments, suggesting the UFC boss could have contacted her directly, rather than publicly taking aim at her.
“It’s unfortunate because I feel like I have a really good relationship with Dana,” VanZant told MMA Fighting.
“I feel like I thought we were closer friends and he could text me or call me. Something to have a little bit of compassion, something to communicate with me personally but maybe he will. We just don’t know. I’m sure it’s an uncomfortable situation.
“Dana’s comments, what I’m hearing you say, he wants me to test free agency then hopefully they just let me go. If that’s how they feel, then they’ll just let me be free.”
The American says she harbours no resentment towards the UFC but has decided to test free agency in a bid to realise her true market value.
“I’ve never spoken negatively about the UFC. I’m not bitter about where I am in my career, bitter about the position that the UFC has put me in whatsoever,” VanZant said.
“I just felt like for myself, I wanted to test free agency and that’s not because I dislike the UFC or dislike Dana or anybody.
“I know the way my career has looked the last few years but I also know the talent that I have fought against. The combined record of the people who have beat me is pretty high.
“I just think I want to be paid more. No matter where you work, if you feel you’re undervalued, there should be absolutely no shame in asking for a raise. Especially if you’ve done your time and put your work in. I’ve been in the UFC for six years.”
Some say VanZant could be worth around $3 million because of her burgeoning social media prescence.
But VanZant revealed she earns just $46,000 (US) per fight in the UFC, with another $46,000 added if she wins.
“I’m not going to hide that because everyone knows. I can make way more money than that just promoting brands on Instagram, and that should say something,” she said.
“Why would I step away from all the amazing success that I have? I made more money from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ than I have in my entire UFC career combined – every fight, every win, every bonus.”
Rumours are now swirling about VanZant’s next career move, with Bellator (where husband Austin Vanderford fights) and WWE potential landing spots.
The 26-year-old has starred on Dancing with the Stars and on Sports Illustrated shoots and is keen to be seen as more than just a fighter, wherever she ends up next.
“I want to go into negotiations, whoever it’s with, I want to know that they want me to be part of their family,” VanZant told MMA Fighting. “I want to work for them.
“I want to open a relationship where I can work — whether that’s working the desk or reporting or doing behind-the-scenes work. I have a passion for camera and TV work as well.
“So I would love if I could more than just fight for a promotion. I ultimately want to be part of the family.”