‘Dancing With the Stars’ contestant Paige VanZant confesses she’s getting homesick for the UFC


Despite her undeniable talent that has been revealed on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Paige VanZant has maintained throughout weekly interviews that she would not make a career change from the Ultimate Fighting Championship at this point in her life.

This week even more so confirmed that thinking, VanZant said in a Tuesday conversation with the Los Angeles Times.

The UFC strawweight admitted that while watching her most recent opponent, Rose Namajunas, participate on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event in Tampa, Fla., and seeing social media photos of her Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male mates in training, she has battled homesick feelings.


“Oh lots,” VanZant, 22, said. “I’m missing fighting so much now. It didn’t really kick in until last week. Seeing my teammates having good fights coming up and watching the fights, seeing the Instagram photos of them training and me not being there ... it’s actually been really hard.”

VanZant’s bloody loss to Namajunas in December preceded her participation in “DWTS,” and there are obvious benefits to the national exposure she’s receiving by participating on the popular show.

On Saturday, for instance, she had to record the UFC card because she was asked to throw out the first pitch that night at Dodger Stadium, an opportunity that she said “blows my mind.”

On Monday’s “DWTS” partner-switch edition, VanZant danced the rumba with new partner Sasha Farber and scored a 31 with a guest judge participating. VanZant is among the favorites to win the competition.

“It was a new dance for me. ... It was a little nerve-wracking learning a new dance with someone new, but it was a challenge I was ready for,” she said.

“The most common thing [about dancing and fighting] is getting ready for new opponents -- new styles, new bodies -- each time I fight. So getting ready for a new dance is comfortable for me.”


As the weeks tick off, does the competitive bug also seem similar?

“I don’t even remember the scores I got, or in what place I was after last night,” she said. “I’m just excited to be part of the process.

“I’m definitely still committed to this and so happy and blessed to be part of ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I’m doing the best I can, and hoping to make an impact for the UFC. It’s still a foreign sport to a lot of people, so hopefully when I get done with this, I can get right back there to fight and bring fans to the sport.”

The itch to get back there herself could one day include a rematch with Namajunas, who defeated Tecia Torres, another woman who had handed VanZant her only other MMA loss.

“I wanted to see that fight, obviously, because those are my only two losses. It was a great fight. They’re both talented fighters. I was very happy for Rose. She has a bright future. I see her fighting for a title one day,” VanZant said.

“Whatever fight the UFC gives me, I’ll take. ... I respect Rose. She’s very talented. Looking back, I think, with a few more fights, that [rematch] could happen. Of course, you want to avenge your losses, but it wasn’t a close fight. So it’s not in the front of my mind. All I’m thinking about is getting back to the gym and training. I’m missing it so much. I train here [in Los Angeles], but not with teammates, so it’s weird and kind of sad.”

She’ll at least get some form of home cooking this weekend because the UFC has invited her to train in Las Vegas and attend UFC 197 at MGM Grand, marked by a fight featuring her teammate, featherweight Andre Fili, and the main-event return of former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


Voting for VanZant can be done until 5 p.m. Pacific Tuesday at; and, with more information at VanZant’s Twitter profile, @PaigeVanZantUFC.

Twitter: @latimespugmire