Bare Knuckle FC president David Feldman doesn’t expect Paige VanZant to throw in the towel on fighting for his promotion despite falling short in her debut.
VanZant suffered a unanimous decision loss to Britain Hart in their 125-pound bout on Friday, which served as the “BKFC: KnuckleMania” main event at Bert’s Barracuda Harley-Davidson in Clearwater, Fla. She lost four of five rounds on the scorecards, but did not suffer significant damage.
Feldman could only say positive things about “12 Gauge” after the fact. Bringing her in was a massive signing for his organization, and he said her presence resonated across all tangible metrics, with the event trending to do “very, very well” on pay-per-view.
Although VanZant didn’t get her desired outcome, Feldman said he doesn’t think she looked out of place against Hart, who edged her in both professional and bare knuckle boxing experience. But like anyone who joins a new sport, there’s a learning curve involved.
“I was impressed by what she did,” Feldman told MMA Junkie on Saturday. “It’s not the result she wanted, but at the same time for the company and the future for her, she still has a future here. I think she was a little bit surprised when she was in there. She has no quit in her and you could really see in the fourth and fifth round she really started to come on.
“I take my hat off to Paige. Win, lose or draw, just the fact she did something she didn’t have to do is really impressive. She wanted to prove to herself that she could do this. I take my hat off to her and I expect her to come back. She didn’t take a beating. She got edged in a close fight.”
Paige VanZant learns Bare Knuckle FC isn't the easy payday it might appear | Opinion
'BKFC: KnuckleMania' results: Britain Hart picks apart Paige VanZant for unanimous decision
Video: Paige VanZant grabs Britain Hart's throat, gets cussed out during BKFC faceoff
VanZant has yet to give any extensive thoughts on the bout. She left the ring moments after the decision was announced, and did not attend the post-fight news conference to take questions from reporters.
She did, however, post on Instagram with a short caption stating she would be “humble in defeat.” Feldman said he had an opportunity to speak personally with VanZant after her loss, and although she was naturally disappointed, he said he didn’t get the sense she was discouraged.
“She’s a competitor and she wants to be the best at everything she does and she wants to succeed,” Feldman said. “She fell short last night in a decision. Some people thought that she won, some people thought that she lost. I thought she put up a very game, valiant effort. She’s down, but she’s not depressed. She wanted to win. She trained her ass off and did a hell of a thing. She tested herself and that’s something a lot of people don’t do. I’m proud of her, I’m proud that’s she part of this team and part of this company.”
VanZant said prior to making her BKFC debut that an eventual return to MMA was likely for the future. She signed with BKFC after a lengthy UFC tenure, and revealed before stepping into the ring that she’d received a very lucrative contract for her services.
What ultimately happens with VanZant’s fighting career going forward will be a decided by her, her family and her team, Feldman said. However, he said there are no signs as of now this is the end of her road with BKFC.
Feldman said he intends to give VanZant space to sort through her thoughts and emotions, but he hopes she returns to the ring sometime in the coming months.
“We’ll definitely talk next week,” Feldman said. “I want to give her time to spend with her husband. If she’s interested and ready to come back, definitely by the end of the summer. Everyone is calling her out. Everyone wants to fight Paige because she can help them make a name for themselves. So we have a lot of options right now on the table.”