From TUF reject to UFC fighter, Paige VanZant says road to Octagon 'bittersweet'


20-year old Paige VanZant talks about her unusual road to the Octagon

Paige VanZant's dreams of competing for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) were put on ice after she was rejected from trying out for season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), which features women vying to become the first-ever UFC strawweight champion.

But it wasn't because of a lack of skills, but rather for being too young, as the 20 year old was just one year too short of meeting the age requirement.

Thanks a lot, alcohol.

But VanZant's frown was instantly turned upside down as she received a contract to compete for UFC anyway, therefore avoiding having to go through the TUF format and straight into making her official debut.

Something that was both a blessing and bittersweet for Paige as she recently explained on The MMA Hour:

"It was a concern for me. I didn't know if they made a mistake or not. I went to the bantamweight tryouts just to be with teammates and help them out. I saw that one of the stipulations was that you had to be 21, and then, actually Dana White called me and said that I was on the show. I wasn't going to second guess him, I was completely in shock. I was excited. I knew it might come up and it was terrible that it did. But I ended up getting a UFC contract anyways, so all in all, it worked out pretty good for me. They called and and said, 'you're not on the show, sorry, but you still get the contract'. So it was kind of bittersweet for me. I don't have the experience of going in the house and I don't get to work with those coaches. But then again, I don't have to go into the house and put up with 15 girls all cutting weight at the same time."

All's well that ends well.

Though VanZant says she is bummed she won't have the chance to be the first to be crowned the 115-pound champion, she is confident a title fight will eventually come her way.

Before TUF 20 airs, however, the strawweights will make their presence felt inside the Octagon on July 16, 2014 as Claudia Gadelha and Tina Lahdemaki have verbally agreed to be the first official UFC strawweight fight at UFC Fight Night 45.

The all-women cast of TUF 20 will be coached by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and No. 1 contender, Gilbert Melendez; who will eventually face each other later this year.

For the record, former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar eventually went on to have great success inside the Octagon after he too, was denied the chance of being on TUF.

Can VanZant follow suit?

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