Ultimate Fighting Championship straw-weight Paige VanZant shed tears of excitement following her debut on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" on Monday night, telling The Times on Tuesday that "it all went perfectly how it was planned." Assigned to the foxtrot with partner Mark Ballas, VanZant is in fourth place with 21 points after showing off dance skills she honed through middle school. Fan voting will determine Tuesday night who's eliminated in a field that includes former college and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie and NFL players Von Miller and Antonio Brown. "It was just so exciting and awesome that I got the high scores," VanZant said. "I'm just out there for the experience and to have a good time and some fun."
With a substitute dance partner and limited practice time, Paige VanZant executed a flawless finish to her salsa dance routine on Monday night's "Dancing With the Stars," winning three perfect scores and high praise. "You were unleashed tonight with the power of a volcanic explosion!" "That was the first time I had ever done that," VanZant told The Times on Tuesday, referring to dance tricks, including an upside-down, behind-the-back shift underneath replacement partner Alan Bersten's legs and an acrobatic number-ending close. "The first time I had ever done a trick like that all. "It was scary, but I didn't have enough time to be scared.
In the seconds before the "Dancing With the Stars" winner was identified Tuesday night, Paige VanZant stood, facing downward. Then, deaf model Nyle DiMarco was announced as the champion. "As I look back, if I was just watching the show on TV and I saw someone like Nyle on, I would vote for him," VanZant, an Ultimate Fighting Championship strawweight fighter, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "He really was inspirational, doing things no one's really done before. It was inspiring and I'm happy for him and how he has inspired people."
Paige VanZant brought a bit of her world as an Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor to her appearance Monday on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," again impressing the judges with her performance on a wooden dance floor surrounded by a UFC-like octagon cage. VanZant's partner, Mark Ballas, returned Saturday from a lower-back injury that caused him to miss her perfect Week 2 scores dancing the salsa with a replacement partner, and suggested the UFC theme. Ballas was all in, dancing shirtless, his chest adorned with a copy of UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor's wing tattoo. Dancing the paso doble with Ballas, Van Zant soared from a punching pose into dancing moves midway through the number, then closed by mockingly throwing a combination of punches toward Ballas, "flooring" him with a powerful right and raising her arms in triumph to raucous applause. "Felt really good about how everything went," VanZant told The Times in a telephone interview Tuesday while she awaits fan voting.
Despite her undeniable talent that has been revealed on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," Paige VanZant has maintained throughout weekly interviews that she would not make a career change from the Ultimate Fighting Championship at this point in her life. This week even more so confirmed that thinking, VanZant said in a Tuesday conversation with the Los Angeles Times. The UFC strawweight admitted that while watching her most recent opponent, Rose Namajunas, participate on Saturday's UFC Fight Night event in Tampa, Fla., and seeing social media photos of her Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male mates in training, she has battled homesick feelings. "Oh lots," VanZant, 22, said. It didn't really kick in until last week.