According to Dana White, Paige VanZant has that elusive “it factor.” | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Paige VanZant’s UFC career has only just begun, but the 20-year-old strawweight already has all the makings of a star.
Earlier this week, VanZant became the latest fighter to receive an individual Reebok sponsorship deal. With that announcement, VanZant joined a select group of UFC athletes that have a separate endorsement contract with the apparel giant. That “12 Gauge” is already sharing such rarified air with the likes of Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey and Anthony Pettis might come as a surprise to some, but UFC President Dana White believes VanZant possesses certain rare, intangible qualities that very few fighters have.
“Listen, people love that girl. She has a great personality -- I don’t know if you saw the Instagram of her dancing out in front of her car. That’s awesome,” White told UFC.com. “She has the personality. Some people have that ‘it factor’ that you can’t teach people, and Paige has it.”
VanZant debuted in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night “Edgar vs. Swanson” on Nov. 22, when she scored a third-round technical knockout over fellow promotional newcomer Kailin Curran. She is scheduled to return to action on April 18 at UFC on Fox 15 against “TUF 20” alum Felice Herrig.
There are a number of more accomplished UFC veterans who have not received Reebok deals – including newly-crowned strawweight queen Carla Esparza. Come July 6, the UFC’s recently implemented outfitting policy will mandate that all competitors wear Reebok attire regardless of their sponsorship status. At that point, fighters will receive compensation for wearing the gear based on their ranking.
White says those who haven’t yet been approached by Reebok shouldn’t feel slighted, as the UFC only announced the partnership this past December.
“The thing is for Carla, Carla is the champ. Some things come easier for other people,” White said. “I don’t think that the Paige VanZant deal is a reflection on Carla negatively at all. Reebok can choose whoever they want. Chris Weidman, T.J. Dillashaw, Demetrious Johnson, Cain Velasquez and Jose Aldo don’t have deals with Reebok. The Reebok deal is still new, and Reebok can’t just run out and sign everybody.”