Former UFC icon Paige VanZant’s transition to the sport of bare-knuckle boxing was a thing of excitement for her fanbase, but not so much for her husband and fellow mixed martial artist Austin Vanderford.
Parting ways with the UFC after 13 professional appearances in the octagon (8 wins, 5 losses), VanZant made a shock move to bare-knuckle boxing last year and penned an exclusive four-bout contract with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) in August 2020.
However, VanZant’s bare-knuckle boxing debut did not go how it was intended to. Serving as the main event of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship: KnuckleMania event at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, Florida, VanZant faced promotional veteran Britain Hart, who came out as a winner via majority decision.
Vanderford says VanZant’s BKFC debut “honestly felt like an MMA fight”
Seeing his partner suffering a loss on her debut was hard for Vanderford, as he admitted the same in a recent appearance on MMA Fighting’s show “What the Heck”. Despite insisting that he was ‘proud’ for VanZant’s BKFC debut, the way Hart had overpowered his wife was a difficult watch for the Bellator fighter.
“It honestly felt like an MMA fight,” said Vanderford on the show, “Of course, there’s a little more at stake with the damage and it being a new venture, and whatnot. I was extremely proud, especially her last round I thought she really turned it on and it kind of showed what she can go forward and do in the fights to come.”
Discussing the risks of going bare-knuckle compared to having MMA or boxing gloves, Vanderford revealed that he was fearful if VanZant would break her hands in a discipline she was just starting out.
“More than anything, her spirit wasn’t broken. We learned from it and there was definitely a learning curve,” the 31-year-old went on, “One of the biggest advantages in bare knuckle is just the experience, going in there and doing it because it’s different than what we’ve grown accustomed to with having pads on our hands and going to bare knuckle, not really knowing if her hands were going to break.”
“How many shots can I take before I’m completely sliced up, and all that. But I’m really confident, excited for her next fight and I was extremely proud,” Vanderford added.
Undefeated in his own MMA career, Vanzerford will be next seen in action against Fabian Edwards this Friday at Bellator 259, touted to be the toughest fight of “The Gentleman” career so far.
Purchase the UFC merch here.
Click to Predict here.