PAIGE VANZANT has been backed to prove she is not just an ‘Instagram model’ but a tough fighter who is not afraid of being a ‘bloody mess’.
The American makes her Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship debut on Friday night against former pro boxer Britain Hart.
VanZant’s shock and brutal switch comes having been released by the UFC, where she left with an 8-5 MMA record.
And BKFC president David Feldman insists any fans sceptical of her transition should look at some of the ex-UFC star’s gory battles in the cage as evidence she can take one to give one.
Feldman told SunSport: “People say she’s an ‘Instagram model’, that kind of thing, but at the end of the day if you’ve seen her face in some of her fights she was a bloody mess.
“She’s not afraid of bleeding, of getting hit, and this is what this sport is about – if you can get hit and throw a punch back you have a good chance of doing well.
“Paige is a tough girl, she didn’t have to come to Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, she came over to test herself.
“That says a lot about the kind of fighter and athlete that she is. Am I expecting her to transition well? Yes I am.”
Feldman launched BKFC in 2018 and has since welcomed former UFC and boxing veterans into his promotion.
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His most high-profile fight was the brutal grudge match between Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov in 2020.
Conor McGregor’s training partner Lobov won the bout on points which featured on pay-per-view.
But securing 26-year-old VanZant – who starred on Dancing With The Stars and Sports Illustrated – has garnered the organisation’s greatest attention.
And Feldman hopes the arrival will spark new interest in bare-knuckle boxing and help bring more eyes to the sport
He explained: “She’s a really good fighter and also what I call an A-lister, a lot of people know her in the celebrity world.
“She was on Dancing with The Stars, Sports Illustrated cover girl, so many different things that made her an attractive signing to us to bring fans that wouldn’t normally have watched.”
VanZant, who has created her own private website, will headline BKFC 15 in Florida off the back of no pro boxing or bare-knuckle experience.
Her opponent Hart, 31, on the other hand has a 4-4-3 pro record and 1-2 in BKFC.
Despite VanZant potentially becoming a promotional poster girl, Feldman warned she is in for the fight of her life.
But he is confident the swimsuit cover girl can show looks can be deceiving as she experiences the exposed fist for the first time.
Feldman said: “It’s going to be a tough match-up and I think Paige VanZant’s going to shock a lot of people.
“I think she’s going to take a punch well, she’s got a very tough opponent in front of her in Britain Hart.”