UFC star Paige VanZant went through a lot to get to where she is today, and for the first time, she is sharing some of the most difficult aspects of her youth in detail.
In her book, entitled “Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life,” VanZant recounts attending a party in Dayton, Ore., while she was in high school where she was sexually assaulted by a group of boys. VanZant says she ended up in that situation in part because of loneliness, which resulted from the constant bullying she experienced in school.
“I felt like I was a smart girl,” VanZant told “Good Morning America.” “My parents raised me well. They raised me to know better and to have some intuition, and it all went out the window just because I was so lonely, and I was in so much pain. All I could think about is like, ‘Wow, I have somebody that wants to be my friend.’
“When I walked in the door of their house, I was like, ‘This probably isn’t a good idea. It was right away. It was, ‘No, I probably shouldn’t be here.’”
VanZant gives a graphic account of what happened later that night, as she was unable to defend herself against her attackers.
“They move me around,” she wrote in the book. “They change my position. I fail each time I try to resist, my limbs like wet cement on my body, my brain a heavy fog. I am awake and conscious, but my body feels dead. I know what is happening but can do nothing to stop it. I have no voice or choice but to submit and pray that it ends soon.”
In the aftermath, VanZant found herself contemplating suicide.
“Through the whole thing I become a totally different person,” she told “Good Morning America.”
“I didn’t see any other way out. When you’re in that position, when in you’re feeling that much pain, it’s not that you want to die. You just don’t want to be in pain anymore.”
VanZant has since rebuilt her life, debuting in the UFC at 20 years old and becoming a crossover star with appearances on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and the Food Network’s “Chopped.” Earlier this year, she announced her engagement. VanZant credits fighting for playing a major role in turning her life around.
“MMA fighting definitely saved my life,” she said. “It saved who I was as a person, too.”
VanZant last appeared at UFC Fight Night 124, where she lost a unanimous decision to Jessica-Rose Clark on Jan. 14. The 24-year-old is 4-3 in the UFC and 7-4 as a professional overall.