Commentary MMA gives women strength

Author – Servan Le Janne
A fighter since she was 15, American Paige VanZant has learned to hit back and stand up thanks to MMA.

The gentleman and the star

On Tel Aviv beach, between the towers of the coastline and the sea, a blonde grabs a pull-up bar. Using biceps, Paige VanZant sticks her chin to it once, twice, three times. In this month of November 2019, the sun is beating down on her protruding abs, crimped by a navel piercing. The young woman pursues her lips and continues the effort, before giving way to her husband. Austin Vanderford is training for his upcoming Bellator League MMA fight in the Israeli capital. She is preparing an even more prestigious confrontation. “ I told the UFC that I was ready », She slips in reference to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the most powerful MMA organization on the planet.

After beating Rachael Ostovich in January, the 25-year-old American is forced to forfeit due to a broken right arm. But she’s used to injuries. ” I could make a long list », She writes in her biography, Rise: Survive the fight of my life. My body has suffered cuts, nicks, cracks, punctures, sprains, twists or tears. Having said that, I am not afraid of hurting myself. I see injuries as occasional, expected and unavoidable perils. An opponent should be offered to him early next year.

Paige VanZant

Her pull-ups finished, VanZant finds her husband on the sand. Under the declining sun, which this time caresses her skin, she kisses him and posts the video on Instagram. Over 2.3 million people to follow. On November 15, she does the same to congratulate him on his exit from the octagon. Vanderford defeated Russian Grachik Bozinyan. In the press, not an article forgets to point out that the “Gentleman”, who failed to obtain a UFC contract last year, is also ” Paige VanZant’s husband “. She is the star.

I really believe – and I don’t know if the promotional companies will ever give us a real answer – that women sell better than men. », She points out during our interview in Lisbon earlier this month. ” A few stand out like Conor McGregor, but if you look at a panorama, women make more money, they get attention, so they bring more people.. In Abu Dhabi’s UFC 242 fight in September 2019, Khabib Nurmagomedov hit $ 6 million, while the highest-paid woman, Joanne Calderwood, received just $ 45,000. While Ronda Rousey won $ 140,000 in 2016, Chris Weidman collected 500,000.

We must be equal », Continues VanZant. ” Women are paid less than men and we have to get what we deserve. I just want to know my true worth. The fighter is also so popular on the Internet that all in all, she collects more profits by posting photos on Instagram than entering the octagon. In 2018, she was invited by the Web Summit to present her use of social networks. This year, it made another stop in Portugal, at the beginning of November, just before Rally Israel. She met up with Cris Cyborg, one of the most feared fighters on the circuit.

Cris Cyborg

Under contract with the UFC from 2015 to July 2019, this former Brazilian handball player has 21 wins for two losses. As the top ranked woman in MMA last year, she raised $ 1.08 million, compared to $ 3.03 million for her male alter ego, Conor McGregor. In September, she signed ” biggest contract in women’s MMA history With the Bellator League. Polish Joanna Jedrzejczyk has since said she wants to follow Ronda Roussey’s example to become the best MMA fighter in the world, despite her recent UFC loss to Russian Valentina Shevchenko.

The latter also accompanied Cris Cyborg and Paige VanZant to Lisbon. The three women esteem each other, underlines the American: “ It’s a great sacrifice to do MMA and I respect the effort that others have put in to get there. At the end of each confrontation or almost, the fighters embrace or shake hands. But this effort that VanZant continues every day by doing pull-ups with her husband is crowned with an inestimable reward. ” MMA hardened me, it gave me confidence and a better awareness of my environment », Says Paige VanZant. ” For my generation of women, this is important.

New era

Under the Tel Aviv sun, Paige VanZant’s skin is smooth, free of any cuts, nicks, cracks, punctures, sprains, twists or tears. Her wounds have referred and, she repeats it over and over, she is ready to fight. ” But there’s a wound that I’ve always kept buried She admits. It is ” a pain that I have in the depths of my being and that has been conscientiously killed for years, even for my family; a pain that affected my body but above all damaged my soul.

Born March 26, 1994 in Oregon, on the east coast, Paige Sletten is the daughter of a wrestler and a dance teacher. With her brother Stevie, she has the right to ” try everything »So, sometimes she dances with her mother, sometimes she gets on her BMX to ride with the neighborhood boys, confused by her pink tutu. ” My father didn’t treat me like a precious little princess, he encouraged my ardor », She remembers. When his daughter gets into a fight, Mr. Sletten gives her advice rather than worrying.

Credit: James K. McCann

For now, the young Paige is mainly noticed for her grace. In high school, where she became a cheerleader after participating in a commercial, this small reputation is worth the interest of a certain Ivan. On Halloween, this older boy invites him to a party. Her parents may well refuse to let her go out, the teenager makes the wall and finds herself in front of a glass of watermelon vodka. Has she ever drunk alcohol? Yes, she lies. Then the sips are linked and when, drunk, she suggests the idea of ​​returning, we insist that she stay. Suddenly the room started to spin. In front of her, there is only a blurry kaleidoscope, then the ceiling. Paige finds herself pinned to the ground, without her phone, and someone is holding her wrists. ” It’s my turn now She hears with horror.

On the advice of her father, Paige took up MMA at the age of 15. Helped by her agility as a dancer, she learned this still very masculine discipline by exchanging blows with men, no matter what one might say. ” I fell in love with MMA She smiles. ” I stopped dancing and put my studies aside to give it my all. My family was supportive of me and I learned not to surround myself with people who tell me what to do. After winning an amateur fight at 18, Paige VanZant made her pro debut with a victory on June 30, 2012. A year and a half later, her name appears at the bottom of a UFC contract.

I’m delighted to have been one of the first female fighters in UFC because it marked the start of a new era. She rewinds. ” Just watching women fight empowers others. And I really advise them to get started. Why shouldn’t our bodies be made for this? “Among other virtues, MMA” learns the spirit of competition, self-defense and allows you to know your strength She boasts. Sadly, mixed martial arts still drag a reputation as a dangerous sport, as Paige couldn’t escape the wary gazes when her pink tutu protruded from either side of the BMX. The stereotypes have a hard life.

While official competitions will finally be authorized in France in January, Anita Karim wears Pakistan’s colors high in the octagon and Zahra Al-Qurashi those of Saudi Arabia. The dissemination of the discipline has no borders. ” Lots of foreigners love MMA and would like to have UFC fights », Rejoices Paige VanZant. ” People like me who don’t look like fighters need to show off to show that it’s not just for violent people, it’s an art with traditions and respect.

Coverage: UFC

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