On Saturday, Paige VanZant competes in the last fight of her UFC contract when she faces Amanda Ribas in the opening contest of the UFC 251 pay-per-view card. Ribas opened as a -450 favorite over VanZant. She has since climbed to -900. VanZant is currently a +550 underdog.
The 26-year-old Ribas is the No. 14 ranked fighter in the official UFC strawweight rankings. She is 3-0 in the UFC and 9-1 overall. Her only loss is a 2015 setback to current UFC fighter Polyana Viana. Despite her young age and relative inexperience, Ribas is a very well-rounded fighter and has been talked about as a potential future champion.
Following her March win over Randa Markos, Ribas spoke to MMA Junkie about her title hopes, ““I think I’m an ambitious girl, so I think at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I need more fights. I know that. Not just for the rankings, but for me. I need more experience with the UFC, with the fans and maybe the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”
VanZant has been dissatisfied with how the UFC pays her, and so she has made it clear that she will explore free agency after this fight.
The soon to be free agent spoke to MMA Fighting about her UFC pay, “I’ve added up all the money I’ve made in the UFC over six years, and I could have just had a regular job with the same pay. I’m so thankful for everything the UFC has done for me, the platform they’ve given me. This is nothing against the UFC. But the contract I signed is what I signed and I know I need to honor it. That’s why I’m fighting this last fight out and I was never trying to break it early.”
VanZant is currently unranked. She is coming off a January 2019 submission win over Rachael Ostovich. Before her win over Ostovich, VanZant went 1-3. Her career record is 8-4. She is 5-3 with the UFC. Like Ribas, VanZant is 26.
VanZant is a tough fighter, but she is not the best fighter the strawweight division has ever seen. At times it feels like MMA is a secondary concern to VanZant. Ribas does not give off that vibe. She seems to want to climb the UFC rankings and eventually become a champion. Don’t expect VanZant to derail Ribas.
UFC 251 is headlined by three title fights. In the main event, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. In the co-headliner, UFC featherweight titleholder Alexander Volkanovski faces Max Holloway. The other title fight is Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight crown.
UFC 251 takes place Saturday, July 11 at Fight Island on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The pay-per-view card streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ and early prelims on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass.