Paige VanZant Must Become Selfish in Her Professional Career

At just twenty-two years of age, Paige VanZant has risen to career heights greater than many athletes ever will. However, amidst all of the outside influences and fame overwhelming her professional and personal lives, she must remember to “keep her eye on the prize”—even if it sounds cliché.

Paige VanZant is a special individual.

The UFC strawweight has stood-out positively inside the cage thus far, and outside the cage, impressive marketing abilities and an undeniable “it” factor (which isn’t just a figment of the promo-savvy UFC president Dana White’s imagination) have allowed her to achieve celebrity status. Her recent competition on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, where she finished second (there was some controversy when she didn’t place first) further amplified her mainstream appeal; the television, film, and modeling opportunities came pouring in.

Also, the UFC just announced her return fight—an August 27 tussle against Bec Rawlings, a scrappy veteran of the sport and The Ultimate Fighter. This is far from an easy bout, and it should now be clear that VanZant’s professional plate is quite filled with obligations.

Nevertheless, the question remains as to whether or not it is filled with the right obligations.

As was mentioned, Paige VanZant has achieved more in a few short years than most professional MMA fighters have or will, in terms of recognition. As was also mentioned, she has (or had) an abundance of out-of-cage opportunities available. To be sure, she turned-down a film part in the upcoming Kickboxer movie, as well as a WWE guest appearance”, to “focus on her upcoming fight”.

These were massive, massive mistakes, and more importantly, they may be indicative of more massive mistakes to come and/or a negative voice in her ear—a “professional” supplying her with low-quality advice that’s steering her in the wrong career direction. There may be more than one of these “professionals” leading Paige VanZant.

It’s her duty to herself as an entertainer—and that’s what athletes are, in their most basic form—and as a person to take advantage of each and every opportunity that comes her way. Some won’t be related to fighting at all. More broadly, she should choose career paths selfishly, not based upon the whims of others.

Because the truth is that, in fifteen years or less, the movie roles and modeling gigs probably won’t be coming in nearly as quickly. Similarly, cage fights will be harder to come by and succeed within. It might seem like a long way off, but the ride’s thrill has been well-documented to make it pass in what feels like no time at all.

When the offers stop, VanZant’s “friendly” phone calls, which she receives by the thousands today, will also cease. Those who she thought were her friends—who probably spoke the loudest for her career—will also be missing. The only reminder she will have of the high-demand days of her professional career will be the number displayed in her bank account.

It goes without saying that this solemn and pinnacle moment can be either a good or bad thing.

Accordingly, it’s imperative that she become selfish and maximize the financial reward of these years. Unlike the definition of selfish that we’re accustomed to, this doesn’t mean she should pout and become notoriously difficult to work with. Rather, she should cut the careless and self-centered decision makers out of her life and replace them with professionals committed to furthering her career. She should know her worth and make educated decisions based upon dollars and cents alone.

To expand upon the latter point, it is absolutely integral that she remains committed to money in its purest form. This means that she shouldn’t be wooed by expensive dinners as opposed to expensive contracts, or talks of the strawweight belt or promises of financial reward in the future.

If she truly was concerned about filming Kickboxer for a few days during her training camp or walking onto a WWE stage for thousands of dollars per minute, VanZant should have moved her fight back. Now, she’s thinking of working around the UFC’s schedule, when in reality, the UFC should be working around her schedule.

And while some may claim that Paige’s lack of interest in these easy gigs is isolated and largely irrelevant (perhaps she really does want to focus exclusively on her fight, and changing its date isn’t possible), they’re missing the broader picture; thousands of dollars missed repeatedly over time will add-up to a sizable sum, and even more significantly, failing to collect these paychecks indicates a lacking concern for other, larger, career enhancers. For example, if VanZant continues to operate as she is, testing the free market, sitting-down to hear of sponsorship and endorsement options, and allowing big-picture talks to take-place simply won’t be considered.

Let’s hope that someone near Paige is able to clear-house and set her on the straight path—which is also the most financially rewarding. It’s so very important that she doesn’t become enamored and accepting of her current situation; there is always room for improvement.

Certain readers may surmise that this text indicates Paige should act like a “jerk” to receive what she wants, and they’re absolutely right. To succeed in the business she’s involved in, that’s the way you have to be: an unapologetic and self-centered jerk not concerned with the well-being or plans of others, but your own circumstances and compensation.

As numerous now-retired professional athletes will say and as was mentioned before, there will come a day when the only friends VanZant has are those who were by her side prior to fame’s entrance into her life. There will be no more cage fights offers, film opportunities, appearance requests, flashing lights, screaming fans, autographs, interviews, or paychecks.

And when this moment comes, years and years of seemingly unimportant decisions—like appearing in films and other sports—will culminate and bear the weight of the world.

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Max King