It’s appropriate that a reality show would provide a needed showcase for the UFC. After all the news lately is stale, an increasingly predictable soap opera where all the stars just seem tired. It’s a daily dose of reality wearing on even devotees.
They might retire. They might fight again but when? There’s another injury to the main card. The meeting was bad. And of course the reliably ridiculous ‘let’s fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’
The a 22 year old flashed some impressive foot work, not in a cage, but under brightly colored lights with more people watching than had ever seen her do what she does for a living. She exhibited poise, confidence and personality. Impressing those judges week after week and attracting attention from the masses who took time out to vote for her to continue forward. It took her all the way to the finals and put a face on MMA that is a refreshing note in a tiring symphony of excuses and controversies, manufactured or not, that has become too frequent in the sport.
Without a takedown or a punch, Paige VanZant lifted her UFC stock over these weeks by simply dancing and showing she has the charisma predicted, when merely a year as a pro the organization signed her to the new strawweight division in 2013. She would be the heir apparent to the female ranks of pop star.
That rapid road to stardom was detoured in December, less than three months after she had inked a new deal, when VanZant was choked out by Rose Namajunas, her first UFC setback. Enter the long running Dancing With The Stars TV series that has used up almost every “star” willing to tango, fox trot, waltz or just show up. For them as well, VanZant brought a spark. It was that win-win that usually means someone lost but not in this case. She finished second but it was a huge victory, by far the best showing ever for a fighter.
Along the way, in-between the costume changes and adjusted choreography, the UFC got positive publicity. And in a time when “positive” can also connote something totally different and bad in fighting, VanZant provided all the good things associated with the word. America saw week after week, dance after dance, more layers of the still “cage fighter” stereotype peeled away.
It is expected she will be returning to Team Alpha Male to revamp training for her next fight, presumably later this year. Maybe, though still so young in her career, tripping the light fantastic was the perfect respite in what has been a whirlwind ride already in her pro career. No doubt after post Dancing appearances on Good Morning America and a few other popular stops, there will be several more viewers for her next fight. She has piqued the curiosity of many. That footwork on stage so impressive, one wonders how much better it will be in the octagon.
Paige VanZant has created a buzz for herself, exceeding the marketing hope of the UFC when she signed on to dance for a while. What she’s done is given everyone who appreciates the sport a reason to smile this week. Whether a regular viewer or one just tuning in for her finale, there was something interesting about someone not yet jaded, still original, a bit daring, and enjoying the success she’s earned.
Remember when there was more of that in the sport?
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