There’s no denying that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has invested a lot of time and effort in promoting Paige VanZant in recent months.
It would only seem natural, then, that there was some disappointment within the promotion following VanZant’s loss to Rose Namajunas in the UFC Fight Night headliner in Las Vegas on Thursday – especially on the heels of Ronda Rousey’s upset defeat to Holly Holm approximately one month earlier.
If that is the case, UFC President Dana White isn’t about to admit it.
“This is the win-or-lose business. This is what these guys do. They go in and take fights,” he said. “We told Paige, ‘You’re young in the sport.’ She almost beat the s--t out of [matchmaker] Sean Shelby at the offices for telling her that.”
VanZant’s lack of experience showed against Namajunas, who picked her apart on the feet, took her down at will and passed guard with ease before submitting the Team Alpha Male representative with a rear-naked choke in round five.
Still, VanZant’s resilience was a key attribute in getting her through a number of perilous positions throughout the fight. It’s something that should aid her progress as she returns to the drawing board in Sacramento, Calif. After the fight, an emotional VanZant denied that the weight of the promotional push affected her performance.
“There was no pressure. I’m just new, you know,” she said. “I’ve got a lot to learn. Just work with my team. I’m trying not to cry, guys. You can’t just be aggressive to win fights.”
That aggression and pressure had been more than enough in three previous UFC victories, but none of those prior foes possessed the overall skill of Namajunas. When her wrestling failed, VanZant simply didn’t have any other options.
“I got outclassed in every way,” she said. “So [I] just [need to] get back with my team and game plan and work on my technique.”
If anything, VanZant’s display of toughness might have earned her some respect she didn’t initially have during her rapid ascent to UFC stardom. White, for one, expects her to make a strong comeback.
“She’s aggressive. She’s a competitor and if you doubted it, you saw it tonight,” he said. “She’s got the dog in her. There was no quit in her. I told her tonight, ‘You’ll learn more from this loss than from all your wins in the past.’ You saw it tonight what she’s got. She’ll get better and she’ll keep working.”