Ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship star Paige VanZant has her opponent for her first bare knuckle match in 2021.
VanZant (0-0 BK) posted on her Instagram on Thursday announcing the signing of the bout agreement for her Feb. 5 fight with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. The date of her debut had been previously announced, but her opponent had not been made official. At BKFC 14 in November, Britain Hart (1-2 BK, 1 KO) battered Randine Eckholm to force a fourth-round stoppage. After the match, Hart called for a fight with VanZant. Additionally, Hart came on the broadcast at BKFC 15 to again call for her shot against the former UFC fighter. Her wish has been granted, per MMA Fighting on Thursday. The two will meet at the BKFC featherweight division, which is 125 pounds.
VanZant transitions over to bare knuckle boxing after a 13-fight MMA career including nine in the UFC. On the heels of three losses in four bouts from 2016 to 2020, VanZant became a free agent and left the promotion to seek offers elsewhere. Instead of moving to another league like Bellator MMA, “12 Gauge” opted to switch sports entirely. As an MMA fighter, VanZant recorded two knockouts, and her most recent came from a head kick against Bec Rawlings. The other came against Kailin Curran, when VanZant put Curran on her back and finished the fight with ground-and-pound. Both of these techniques would be illegal in BKFC, which uses a modified version of boxing rules.
Facing the “Dancing with the Stars” finalist will be Hart, a fighter who earned her first BK win when she stopped Eckholm. Her first two pro bare knuckle bouts came with BKFC in 2018 and 2019, when she fought Rawlings for the inaugural title and dropped a split verdict. Her subsequent fight against Christine Ferea was even less successful, as Ferea forced a doctor stoppage 69 seconds into the second round for the vacant belt. As a boxer, Hart maintained an even 4-4-3 record, scoring three knockouts along the way. Her most recent pro boxing bout came in August, when she forced then-unbeaten Kim Wabik to quit on the stool between rounds.
BKFC 16 will take place on Super Bowl weekend in Tampa, Fla., and the venue has not yet been set. The Feb. 5 card will be headlined by VanZant vs. Hart, while a co-featured matchup sees the lightweight strap – 135 pounds – on the line as champ Johnny Bedford looks to defend it against Dat Nguyen. Ulysses Diaz, who authored a three-second knockout at BKFC 14, will also be competing against an undisclosed opponent.